The Metro, Chicago, IL – Saturday, 09/24/2016
Not nearly enough good can be said about ColdWaves, Chicago’s yearly event celebrating the life and music of Jamie Duffy, raising funding and awareness for suicide prevention, and providing a communal experience for what has often been referred to as the “biggest smallest scene” – industrial/rock. Taking inspiration as much from the more atmospheric, experimental, and purely electronic styles that underlie virtually every permutation of the genre and infusing them with the tonal and lyrical heaviness that pervades alternative rock and metal, ColdWaves has done well to represent all of these disparate elements in equal measure, with past events often dividing the focus among its various nights – i.e., one night would be more rock-centric with the other night more on the electronic side. While ColdWaves V maintained this arrangement, the variety of bands on display at this year’s event blurred the lines between these divergent styles further than ever; while it can be said that the first night was more centered on the electronic and poppier aspects, all of the bands exhibited an energy and dynamism on par with the more guitar-oriented rock stylings that this second night presented. Not to be outdone by the first night’s roster, the acts that took to the stage at the Metro on Saturday seemed determined to give the audience a powerful and memorable helping of industrial/rock.
With renowned guitarist Matthew Setzer sharing the stage, Kanga’s juxtaposition of darkly enticing, sensual pop melodies with gritty electro/industrial textures began the second night quite wonderfully. As alluring as it is aggressive, “Something Dangerous” sets the stage with its recurring bass line bearing a resemblance to Nine Inch Nails’ “Somewhat Damaged,” all the while building to a crescendo of distorted, noisy bombast that gives way to the infectiously danceable rhythm of “Going Red,” a song with a seething yet instantly catchy chorus. With her cover of Gary Numan’s “Metal” being another highlight, Kanga demonstrates why she’s one of the most exciting new talents in industrial, blurring the genre lines with actual songwriting and melody that defies the conventional wisdom that pop has no place in the underground.
Noisy and loud, the post-punk/rock energy of Bloody Knives hits hard early in the night, creating a sonic haze and a thunderous roar that surprises those not already in the know, including myself. With a lushly ambient wall-of-noise sound driven by feedback and overdriven guitars, the likes of Curve comes to mind (and not just because bassist/vocalist Preston Maddox worked with Dean Garvia in STFU) – after this writer managed to stop ogling his Rickenbacker bass, Maddox’s voice resonates well with the shimmering blend of rocking rhythms a la drummer Jake McCown and the crystalline waves of distorted guitar from Jack O’Hara Harris. Saccharine melodies topped off by atmospheric noise the likes of which My Bloody Valentine and The Jesus & Mary Chain excelled at made for a coldly inviting addition to the night, introducing this band to the audience with great aplomb.
Having steadily earned a place in the upper echelons of modern industrial music with such albums as Rag Doll Blues
and last year’s The Bottom
, Dead When I Found Her hits the stage with front man Michael Arthur Holloway exhibiting a quiet confidence that resounds through the entire performance. Various songs bear a strong resemblance to several of Skinny Puppy’s most recognizable tracks, but this is not to speak ill of the band by any stretch; given that many prefer the sounds of older Skinny Puppy compared to where that band’s current directions have led (and there are worse bands one can aspire to emulate), DWIFH fills that void wonderfully, appealing to a nostalgia for the grittier, spookier, more atmospheric brands of industrial. For two people onstage, it was not a bad performance – low key in its presentation, but effective in the music’s power and ambience, recalling a more universal and formative style of rhythmic industrial.
Next to take the stage were the maestros of machine rock, back for the first time since CWII; one of the genre’s progenitors and most consistent practicioners, 16volt. The band featured a new lineup, but was still as powerful as ever thanks in large part to the onstage energy – guitarist Erik Gustafson, drummer Kyle Cunningham, and bassist Steve Hickey are clearly reveling in being part of Eric Powell’s new configuration as they presented classics like “Machine Kit” and “The Cut Collector” with all the fine tuned precision of a machine operating at 110% capacity. Newer classics like “Alkali,” “Cables & Wires,” and “Somebody to Hate” proved to be just as forceful, following the in-your-face opening of “The Electric Pope” marvelously, and establishing that 16volt knows its legacy and will deliver on it with the one-two punch the band always has. As well, as new highlight of the set list included “The Infernal Paramour” with one of the band’s best ever choruses, and the audience let its pleasure be known with one of the loudest receptions of the entire two-night event… that is, until the next band.
Of the numerous reunions that ColdWaves has hosted since its inception, few have been more eagerly anticipated than that of the techno/metal hybrid duo of Marc Heal and Phil Barry – a.k.a. Cubanate. If ever there was a phrase uttered repeatedly by me and several others in the audience during the band’s triumphant performance, it would be, “Holy shit!!!” Strutting and commanding the stage like he owns it, immediately grasping the audience in his clutches, Heal proved to be as magnificent a performer as ever; you’d never know he hadn’t been onstage since 1999! Holy shit!!! Of and ahead of its time, the band’s best known songs like “Body Burn,” “Oxyacetylene,” “Lord of the Flies,” “Barbarossa,” “Hatesong,” and even tracks from the drum & bass infused Interference
like “Isolation” and “It” sounded as fresh, as powerful, in-your-face, manic, and goddamn
loud as ever! Barry’s guitars were as guttural and as biting as ever, screaming with the industrialized fervor of a chainsaw on methamphetamine, with Vince McAley providing some additional stomp with his heavy drumming ability. Holy shit!!! Cubanate… you have been missed, and you did not disappoint.
The lights dim, a bleak soundscape begins to emanate from the speakers, and the band takes to the stage donning pig masks; it’s an ominous start to another of the night’s most anticipated comebacks, one of industrial/rock’s most revered and raucous entities – PIG. The tolling of a distant church bell resonates, and a rhythmic stomp courtesy of drummer Galen Waling and keyboardist Z.Marr underscores the Lord of Lard, Raymond Watt’s guttural growl as “The Diamond Sinners” begins the set. The dual guitar assault of En Esch and Günter Schulz hits all of the distorted melodic marks with the precision of a skilled sniper, especially on new tracks like the funky “Shake” and the intense rocker “Found in Filth,” as well as on classics like the manic juggernaut of “Wrecked” and the shrill “Everything,” the latter’s offbeat tempos executed perfectly by Waling’s booming percussive assault. As ever, Watt’s voice alternates between a smooth, sensual croon and his monstrous roar effortlessly as he struts on the stage with the flamboyant swagger of a rock star, complete with a white feathered boa/jacket.
It’s amazing to think that the man hasn’t been onstage as the Mighty Swine in a decade, but he clearly has the crowd in the palm of his dirty little hand, towering over the audience like a demigod on a demented pulpit as he preaches to the perverted. In other words, it’s PIG as fans have come to love him, and this lineup is perhaps the tightest the band has ever been; with Watts, Esch, and Schulz sharing a collective history as past members of KMFDM, it’s only natural that they would include the pair of “Flesh” and “Juke Joint Jezebel,” and like a fine wine, the songs have only gotten better with age. Ending the set was one of PIG’s best known alliterated anthems of debauchery and decay, and the audience reaction to “Find It, Fuck It, Forget It” was enough to damn near bring the Metro’s ceiling crashing down upon them.
While Al Jourgensen may have carried on the name of the Revolting Cocks (or RevCo as his configuration has come to be known), in the minds of many in the industrial scene, the true spirit of the Revolting Cocks can only include the talents of those musicians that brought the band to prominence. Featuring original founding members Luc Van Acker and Richard 23, and later alumni like Chris Connelly and Paul Barker, and backed by the able drumming of Dan Brill and conducted by the eminent Jason Novak, this incarnation of The Cocks is perhaps the most authentic presentation of the band since the heyday of the WaxTrax! era. From the start, the band immediately revels in its irreverence and anarchic style as the crowd is treated to a front-to-back performance of the classic Big Sexy Land
album. As front men, 23 and Van Acker are a despicably dynamic duo who strut and scowl their way through the set with obvious elation that could be felt with every strut and leap, heard in every howl and shout, seen even behind their dark shades. Barker’s gritty bass grooves in tandem with Brill’s precision drumming and the rhythmic bombast of Novak’s mastery of the electronics recreated each track of Big Sexy Land
flawlessly, 23 and Van Acker clearly soaking up the audience’s energy and delivering it right back with tracks like “Attack Ships on Fire,” “No Devotion,” “38,” and the opening title track sounding as fresh and as vibrant as they did three decades ago in 1986.
With the onset of the much beloved/reviled cover of Olivia Newton John’s “(Let’s Get) Physical,” Connelly joins the band on stage in full Scottish regalia, appearing like a Scottish rock & roll warrior that continues through the remainder of the set, featuring a veritable “best of” presentation of such hits as “Stainless Steel Providers,” “Beers, Steers & Queers,” and culminating in a final encore performance – the band’s sleazy, utterly filthy rendition of Rod Stewart’s “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?” prompting the audience to shout along. By the time the distortion fizzled out of the speakers and the haze began to settle, one could almost literally breathe in the sense of joy and devotion, ending ColdWaves V on an unadulterated high. And that high was only further maintained by the after-party DJ sets by Jim Marcus, Curse Mackey, and a special appearance by Bryan Black – a.k.a. Black Asteroid – bringing his signature caustic brand of stomping electro beats and acidic synths to the crowd with all the fury and energy of any of the band’s sets.
Once again, the importance of ColdWaves can’t be understated, with Pat “MamaKidd” Duffy addressing the audience, aided onstage by Brian James Dickie and Dann Szymczak, with heartfelt appreciation and reminiscence of her son and the legacy he has left us. As she stated after the event, “I saw my son…” in the looks of joy on everyone’s face. Indeed, with every note, every percussive stomp, every shout from the audience, Jamie Duffy’s spirit could be felt – this was the scene and the music that he loved and helped to create. As Jim Marcus stated in his address to the audience after Cubanate’s set, “This is the only music festival in the entire world that exists because someone loved their friend so much that they didn’t want to let go, and doesn’t want anyone ever again to have to let go of a friend too soon.” No truer words could have been spoken, and not nearly enough thanks can be expressed by this writer or anybody else to Jason Novak for the time and effort he puts in every year to help make ColdWaves more than just a concert event, more than a memorial to a great musician and human being, but a time and a place for people to not feel alone and to remind us all that no matter how dark things get in life, we are all in this together.
This writer does not believe that Jamie Duffy’s spirit is resting… no, he was a man who created too much that rest could not have ever been on his mind. Even as we pay tribute to him, this writer firmly believes that whatever heaven he is in, whatever plane of existence his soul walks upon, he is looking upon us, doubtlessly smiling with an almost maniacal pleasure, with the volume cranked past 11 and rocking as loud and as hard as everybody at ColdWaves V.
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Darkest Before Dawn
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The Metro, Chicago
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Dead When I Found Her
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Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)
Photography by MizTabby Patton (MizTabby)
ColdWaves V – Main Event, Night 2 (09/24/2016)