Feb 2014 22

The Fillmore, Silver Spring, MD, 2014/02/11
Skinny Puppy - Live in Silver Spring, 2014


Situated on the same block where the AFI Silver Theater and Cultural Center resides, The Fillmore stands as one of the DC area’s current top venues, and with good reason given its spaciousness and, as this writer would discover by the evening’s end, rather excellent sound and lighting system. It was the perfect location for one of industrial music’s most influential and longstanding acts – Skinny Puppy – to deliver its nightmarish warnings of life in the criminal age on the band’s Shapes for Arms tour. With the band’s latest album, Weapon, receiving a great deal of coverage for its creative invoicing of the US government’s use of Skinny Puppy’s music as a method of torture at Guantanamo, the message could not be clearer… the dystopia is already upon us; what are you going to do about it? Well, for the people attending this evening’s event and making The Fillmore a packed house, they were here to watch and listen to the heroes of industrial brutalize their eardrums and stimulate their senses as only Skinny Puppy is capable of.


Beginning the evening’s festivities was local DC act Technophobia, the name representing true underground irony as front man Denman Anderson was flanked by keyboardists Katie and Stephen Petix. At one point, one of my companions referred to the band as what would occur “if The Cure and Devo had a kid;” indeed, this description was quite apt as Anderson’s baritone croon was certainly evocative of all the best goth rock, but backed by bouncy electronics that simply radiated with new wave synthpop energy. Aided by a series of monitors displaying colorful graphics, one might think the band at least a suitable opener visually, while the music was certainly more lighthearted than one might imagine for what was to ensue. As well, given this writer’s unfamiliarity with the band’s music prior to this evening, coupled with a rather steady, relatively consistent rhythm pervading through each song, there was very little to behold in terms of individual tracks. Nevertheless, Technophobia exhibited a simple yet lush stage presence with just the right amount of energy to get the audience in the right mindset for the later acts.


Army of the Universe has only been in activity for a few short years, yet to see the stalwarts Italians onstage is to see a band with all of the bravado and showmanship of seasoned veterans. Backed by the thunderous percussive assault of KMFDM’s Andy Selway filling in for Chris Vrenna, the mix of squelching electronics with crunchy guitars is certainly like no other in the current stream of industrial rock. Front man Lord K gyrates with a fluidity that seems almost an amalgam of every great rock star that ever was, belting out a forceful vocal performance that is almost undercut by his rather impressive physique; he exudes control over each aspect of the show, holding the audience in the palm of his hand. Meanwhile, guitarist Davide Tavecchia and keyboardist Albert “Trebla” Vorne flank him with their own complementary displays of musicianship; on more than one occasion, Vorne straps on a keytar while lasers project from his gloved hand, adding just enough flash and flair that in the hands of a lesser band would come off as tacky. Credit must also be given to Army of the Universe for the diversity in the set list, consisting just as much of non-album tracks like “Kill the F* DJ,” “Ravens Over My Rave,” “PNKRZ!,” and new single “Uniforms,” for which the band waved custom scarves and banners around, to album favorites like “Dust in the Universe,” “Lovedead,” “Good Nite,” and “Hollywood Drama” from Mother Ignorance to “A Visionary Story” and the title track from The Hipster Sacrifice. With all the energy of a great rave party, Army of the Universe primed the audience up wonderfully for the audiovisual onslaught of the headlining act.


The haunting chorale of “Choralone” fills the air, the darkened room steadily filling with noise and anticipation, as glimmers of the band members as they took to the stage resonated like sonic halos. And then the opening rhythms of “IllisiT” thunder through the speakers, Justin Bennett’s percussive prowess complementing the depth of cEvin Key’s electronics magnificently, along with the massive projections of stock tickers, security cam footage and feeds from onstage cameras, and various props of surreal horrific ambience. Waving a damaged umbrella bearing the radioactive symbol and donning a costume that evokes numerous images at once, from a battered post-apocalyptic survivor to a ghostly faceless monk, Nivek Ogre takes to the stage, his impassioned rasp riling the audience up with intense vigor. There’s no doubt – it’s the sort of show that only Skinny Puppy can deliver. With a varied set list that encompassed numerous highlights from across the band’s 30-year-long career, the audience soaked in every caustic beat, every scathing note, every disturbing image – an abused mannequin of an emaciated dog, the mixing and subsequent consumption of glowing elixirs leading to spasms and retching, and the requisite bloody scarification and self mutilation.


The electricity throughout each track was palpable as the audience swayed with paroxysms of bodily abandon. Such newer songs as the aggressive stomping power of “Village,” the throbbing eeriness of “plasiCage” and “ParagUn,” and the stuttering, dissonant rhythms of “Tsudanama” were juxtaposed with classics like the pulsating distortion of “The Choke,” the rocking and resonant cadence and swagger of “Hexonxonx,” to fan favorite “Worlock,” and this writer’s personal favorite “Deep Down Trauma Hounds.” To hear such an assortment of songs from across Skinny Puppy’s oeuvre, one has to wonder just what the naysayers who continue to speak ill of the band’s post-2004 reformation material are so disenchanted with; all the hallmarks of the Skinny Puppy sonic aesthetic are presented in gleaming abundance, culminating with the modernized version of the classic “Solvent.” The lights and the screens go dark, but the fans wanted more… and with the return of the band to the stage, Skinny Puppy delivered in spades. Stripped of the makeup and the costimes, Ogre revealed himself with remarks of appreciation for the audience’s reverence, along with a plug for the interview with Russia Today’s Abby Martin, conducted earlier that day and aired two days later. Ending the evening with three favorites from the Remission era, the crowd delivered into some kind of decrepit industrial heaven as the familiar beats and twinkling melodic synths of “Far Too Frail” led into the gritty groove of “Glass Houses,” finally ending with what was for many the first taste of Skinny Puppy, “Smothered Hope.”


What more can be said? There was nary an unsatisfied soul in the room by the evening’s end as Skinny Puppy demonstrated the reasons for its longevity and continued relevance amid the ever shifting musical landscape.


Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)
Photographs by Jessica Jastrzebski (jjastrz) and Katherine Gaines (ambienteye), courtesy of Ambient Eye Photography.


Skinny Puppy – by Jessica Jastrzebski

Skinny Puppy – by Katherine Gaines

Army of the Universe – by Jessica Jastrzebski

Army of the Universe – by Katherine Gaines

Technophobia – by Jessica Jastrzebski

Technophobia – by Katherine Gaines

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