Nov 2013 27

The Independent, San Francisco, CA, 2013/11/14
KMFDM - Live in San Francisco, 2013


After releasing the album KUNST and wrapping up a tour during the early half of this year, one would think that the prolific Käpt’n K and company would take a considerable hiatus to recover from their hectic schedule, but then a second North American Tour, We Are KMFDM, was announced and it became apparent that the industrial rock colossuses didn’t quite get its fill of making venue walls quiver via the signature Ultra-Heavy Beat. With nearly 30 years under its tactical belt and zero signs of slowing down, allied with opener tribal/industrial drum act CHANT, KMFDM once again set sights on striking one of America’s major arteries with a virulence that seems almost impossible to stop. Deep within the constructs of the rat race known as San Francisco, fans started gathering around the entrance of The Independent eagerly awaiting the shenanigans that were sure to ensue. The eclectic myriad of individuals – rockers, conservative-looking yuppies, hipsters, metal heads, Victorian Goths, and of course, rivetheads sporting Mohawks – were pumped on a combination of nicotine and the numbing winter cold, which was of course later met with lots of alcohol and adrenaline. In other words, everything was on course for the makings of an amazing night.


Looking very much like vagrants straight out of the popular Fallout video game series with their post-apocalyptic garb, CHANT, consisting of Austin natives Bradley Bills and Kristopher Robin of the electro/rock band Guild, burst onto stage without much hesitation and led the resistance of ardent electronic addicts into a night of industrial-fueled ecstasy. With a refreshing blend of heavy, tribal industrial rock with traces of punk aesthetic, the duo coalesced the half-full scattered mob with the offbeat hooks in “Hope” and mostly material from the most recent Strong Words for Strong People album and some older yet equally aggressive tracks. Momentum starting picking up around the time the infectious crowd pleaser “Revolt” reared its head as many shouted along with the daily mantra, bobbing their heads to the crunching synth loops and tribal beats induced by Bills’ drumming prowess. Slightly reminiscent of the clashes in Nine Inch Nails’ “Burn,” the dirge in “Need” was quite evident even through the mesmerizing effects of trudging pounds, red and white light panels flashing in the backdrop, and the moment when a musician instinctively pulls a trashcan out of nowhere and goes to town; it was raw as much as it was beautiful. An older track, “Crash Me” added a nice dynamic touch with a heavy rock & roll melody, which appropriately prompted Robin to abandon his keyboard midway through and take the reins of the drum set as they both formed an uncontrollable percussion-driven blitz that drew the lively crowd even closer to the stage. The duo continued to destroy the sound system with the comparatively down-tempo techno-esque pulses in “Point and Click,” the growling guitar grinds in the new single “Universal,” and the acknowledgement of one’s wicked ramifications fully realized in the lament titled “Blood+Peace.” Already packed to the brim with exemplary musicianship and drive, CHANT is an outstanding act that should be on everyone’s radar.


Never taking itself quite serious enough to arouse accusations of snobbery, the short intro “Sucks,” which pokes fun and encourages the audience to shout that they aren’t the imposing force that they actually are, is the ironic, playful side we all have come to know and love of the German industrial rock behemoths; 29 years strong, still pushing the envelope and never really getting bigheaded to the extent – although some of the lyrics may contradict that notion – of not reserving the right to be both facetious and serious when it matters is something that just goes hand in hand with KMFDM. The now filled to capacity locale erupted into an uproar, impatiently waiting for the influential vocalists Sascha Konietzko and Lucia Cifarelli to smash through the woodwork as drummer Andy Selway, and guitarists Jules Hodgson and Steve White (wearing his usual, perfectly curved baseball cap) took the stage. With many of the attendees undoubtedly growing up with and drawing inspiration from the offerings of KMFDM throughout all of their active years, it was understandably difficult to control the level of giddiness that arose when the band finally appeared in full form as the beginning of “KUNST” was heard amid the reverence-ridden shouts. Suffice to say, even devotees of the prominent synthpop band joined along in the “Kill Mother Fucking Depeche Mode!” chant.


Covering a broad range of material spanning from the eras of XTORT to KUNST, sounding just as good live and never missing a beat, the aviator-wearing frontman and striking as ever Lucia initiated the barrage that exemplified their range with “Amnesia,” “Ave Maria,” and the classic “Light.” By the time “Pussy Riot” and “I (Heart) Not” came to a close, everyone who was attached to the limited seating by the walls was forced to stand as nearly the entire crowd was fully engaged and erect, anxiously awaiting more industrial-filled morsels that were about to be discharged. The fan favorite “Free Your Hate” violently shook the ground and walls as the restless exclaimed and threw fists in the air, hanging onto every word that both vocalists were spewing in the name of anti-oppression and social justice. The level of showmanship was top-tier yet not over-the-top; unlike many bands, especially ones who have also stood the test of time, Käpt’n K could easily grab all of the attention, but he admirably allows each band member to shine in the spotlight seemingly as much as they desire. To Hodgson’s legendary guitar solos to the range Cifarelli seizes to effortlessly drift from one side of the stage to the other with unrivaled sex appeal, it quickly became apparent that each band member also served a theatrical purpose and were treated as integral parts of the outfit and not merely fillers playing instruments.


Perhaps the highlight of the night should rightfully go to “Hau Ruck” for not only its incomparable guitar riffs and deafening pounds, but for its ability to turn the core of The Independent into a mosh pit, crazed to the extent where fallen comrades weren’t noticed until the song ended. Recent additions to the catalog were found in “Animal Out,” which greatly displayed more of Cifarelli’s fiercer side, and the hit “Krank” with its seething chord grinds and buzzing synth hooks. As the night came to an end, supposedly one could attribute the encore to the loud, synchronous utterances of letters comprising of the band’s acronym in “A Drug Against War” from the tireless crowd that enticed the band to inevitably return to the stage. “D.I.Y.” was absolutely entrancing, “Megalomaniac” was great as always, and “Anarchy” eased fans into parting ways as Bills from CHANT once again embraced the stage with the industrial rock pioneers’ final song that night in The City by the Bay.


With the godfather of industrial rock and gang on point, it was surely not a show to be missed. If sweaty fans and broken beer bottles were any indication of a fun time had, then rest assured that the very diverse horde left satiated with the extensive hard-hitting set. Age-defying and harnessing more passion and vitality than ever before, one thing is certain: as long as there’s a mainstream to oppose, social injustices to condemn, and blood coursing through the veins, there will be no pity for the majority.


Zachary Locke (ZLocke)
Photography by DJ Combee (DJCombee)



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