The Regent Theater, Los Angeles, CA
Friday, 11/10/2017 – Saturday, 11/11/2017
Every year since 2012, the ColdWaves event has grown in stature and magnitude, celebrating the life and music of Jamie Duffy, and showcasing the strength and solidarity of the industrial music scene. For the last five years, Jason Novak has paid tribute to his friend and musical partner to make ColdWaves more than a simple charity for suicide prevention – it’s a reminder to the disenchanted, the disenfranchised, and the disheartened that this scene is more than a clique, more than a support system… it is a family, bound by the blood of music, art, and culture that we share as a common identity. This year marked a special moment in ColdWaves history, spreading its wings beyond its roots in Chicago to head west to Los Angeles. With WaxTrax! Records continuing its familial association with the Hollywood screening of the Industrial Accident: The Story of WaxTrax! Records documentary serving as a kick-off of sorts, ColdWaves L.A. made its debut with a format that had worked in the past, with one night offering up the heavier, more abrasive sounds of industrial/rock, and the second opting for more throbbing electronic and experimental sounds. With 12 bands performing at The Regent Theater on Main Street, ColdWaves L.A. proved to be quite a momentous occasion.
The first night featured an all-star cast of ColdWaves alumni, with KANGA beginning the proceedings with a darkly atmospheric introduction giving way to the ominously ascending basslines of “Something Dangerous.” Ever the spitfire onstage, Kanga DuChamp moves with an almost balletic fury that as at once sensual and arresting, her voice saccharine and sweet as her melodies provide a vivacious counterpoint to the harshness of the music. Guitarist Matthew Setzer’s onstage presence is a scathing accompaniment as his face seethes with both menace and joy, the interplay between the two figures onstage as impactful as the most dramatic production. Songs like “Honey,” “Viciousness,” “Red,” and especially the cover of Gary Numan’s “Metal” stand as the highlights of the set, bursting with insidious aplomb; it’s no wonder she’s become a mainstay, with only greater things to come.
Filled to the brim with resonant layers of shimmering guitars, bristling bass lines, and thunderous beats, Ascension of the Watchers took to the stage next with a more shoegazing post-punk sound that certainly did not skimp on volume or intensity. Known primarily for the more cyber-metal styling of Fear Factory, Burton C. Bell returns to ColdWaves to showcase his more melodic and introspective side, sharing guitar duties with the renowned Mark Gemini Thwaite, backed by bassist Tony Baumeister and drummer Jayce Lewis. It’s clear that years of roaring with Fear Factory have taken somewhat of a toll on Bell’s voice as he struggles with some of the higher registers; nevertheless, he holds his own to reach the emotive heights of songs like “Residual Presence” and especially “Evading,” his vocals reverberating poignantly with a fury that matched anything in his other band, while the music shines and scathes with a kind of post-industrial heaviness that would serve any gothic horror soundtrack.
What then followed was a veritable triumvirate of industrial/rock, and this writer must express a profound joy at seeing Pat “MamaKidd” Duffy thrashing in the audience in adulation of 16volt. Put simply, this band IS
coldwave personified – machine/rock at its absolute best, with longtime drummer John “Servo” DeSalvo behind the kit to unleash his skilled synergy with the programmed rhythms, all the while front man Eric Powell and Steve White delivering those incendiary guitar riffs with all the force of a mechanized piston. Steve Hickey’s bass lines add a sense of groove and fluidity as he and Servo present a rhythmic power that was fully appreciated by the presence of ex-members Mike Peoples and Jason Bazinet in the crowd. Old favorites like “Machine Kit,” “Motorskill,” and “Alkali” hit as hard as ever alongside the newer sounds of “Pushing Scars,” recharging the batteries, oiling the gears to perfection, and kicking some severe ass! If any band was to be up to the task of following that up, it would be Cubanate, and with the recent waves of ’80s inspired and proto-electronic sounds currently dominating the musical zeitgeist, this group’s brand of techno/industrial/metal mania remains in a class all its own.
As dynamic and imposing, confrontational and belligerent a presence onstage as he was 18 years ago, Marc Heal roared onstage like an industrial warrior, his rapid head and eye movements showing him lost in the haze of intensity. Phil Barry’s guitar riffs are equally direct, forceful and with little adornment as he and Vince McAley’s percussive proficiency add the right amount of organic fervor to classics like “Lord of the Flies,” “Junky,” “If,” “Body Burn,” and “Ocyacetaline.” And then to complete the threefold onslaught was Front Line Assembly, practically industrial royalty at this point and blending virtually all forms of the genre like no other.
Riddled with samples to evoke a cybernetic dystopian ambience, FLA continues to wage the information war as “Resist” begins the set with a viciously militaristic display of drums – Jon Siren behind the kit while Jason Bazinet joins sporadically with keyboardist Rhys Fulber and vocalist Bill Leeb on accompanying toms. The spectacle continues with tracks like “Gun,” “Mindphaser,” “Neologic Spasm,” and “Blood” emerging from the speakers like a cleansing wave of vitriol, Leeb showing no visible signs of wear and tear from over 30 years of being one of the scene’s pioneering presences. As if not to be upstaged, Cubanate’s Phil Barry returns to render those venomous guitar licks in “Millennium,” sending the crowd into a frenzy that made for one of the night’s biggest highlights.
Finally, Stabbing Westward emerges to close out the first night, and if you are tired of reading about this band in ReGen
by now, you need only blame the band for continuing to deliver 110%. Marcus Eliopulos’ screeching guitars and Walter Flakus’ percolating synth arpeggios resonate amid Johnny Haro’s blistering tribal rhythms, the steely thrum of Carlton Bost’s cutting like a razorblade while Christopher Hall’s impassioned whispers and wails on the opening “Drugstore” prove as virulent as they were two decades ago. It’s actually quite awe-inspiring that he continues to hit those notes with the same passion and fire, each band member locked in with each other with an almost effortless precision. Hits like “So Far Away,” “ACF,” “Shame,” “What Do I Have to Do?,” and “Save Yourself” still tug at the heartstrings and get the crowd’s boots stomping, fists waving, and hearts pumping as only modern day classics can.
Even without knowing the bands on the bill, within the first few moments of the second night, it was clear to this writer that the overall sound and vibe would be different but just as enthusiastic. Many of the familiar faces from the previous night’s caustic and rocking crowd had departed, making room for a more electronic, experimental, and even danceable mentality.
Starting things off was Not Breathing, having proven its mettle at a previous year’s kick-off event, and now given the task of opening the second night of ColdWaves L.A. with a bombastic and nonstop display of outsider electronic. Joined by Author & Punisher’s Tristan Shone to lend some of his own inimitable style, manipulating his vocalizations to provide a breathy human element to the pulsating synth-laden set, Not Breathing crafted an almost rave-like soundscape of IDM and danceable instrumental electronica that made for an enjoyable display without the need for too much visual flourish.
Having made a delectable impression in Chicago, Georgia’s Boy Harsher brought its ghostly and punchy brand of dark electro to Los Angeles. Bathed in primarily red lighting throughout the entire set, vocalist Jae Matthews and keyboardist Augustus Miller complement each other as multilayered electronics, full of basslines that waver in and out of tune with the punklike abandon of D.A.F., are augmented by haunting vocals. Matthews manually manipulates her effects in a manner that reminded this writer of Nivek Ogre in the ’80s; moving from a low croon to an unhinged scream with a controlled abandon not unlike Ogre if blended with the gothic melodicism of Siouxsie Sioux, she portrays the witchy ardor of a seasoned popstar. Though the tonal palette is not dissimilar from the current crop of retrofuturistic synthwave, Boy Harsher offsets these familiar sounds with a sophisticated form of songwriting that emphasizes the pair’s technical strengths and elevates the band above a simple ’80s nostalgia trip… but with the next band taking the stage, the crowd would be indulged further in just such a trip as Crash Course in Science took the stage.
Those unfamiliar, as this writer must painfully admit he was, might mistake the band for some amalgam of a Devo cover band and a recreation of the “Sprockets
” skit from Saturday Night Live
. The Philadelphia band’s long tenure as an underground electro act could be felt with every pulsing beat, infused with a decidedly modern flair akin to futurepop with a bit of robotic EBM style. The rather heavy use of distortion on Dale Feliciello’s voice rendered the lyrics rather indecipherable; though adding a dark android quality to the songs, it was the first and final tracks of the band’s set that stood out as Mallory Yago took on lead vocals to electrifying effect.
Revered in the ’90s for his singular mixing of hip-hop beats and lyricism with jazzy textures and progressions, Mark Griffin and his complement of exceptional stage musicians in MC 900 Ft Jesus held a tremendous impact on the whole night, the crowd transfixed in a simultaneous state of bewilderment and astonishment. Especially notable was the drummer, blending pure jazz and an acidic, almost trip-hop style as the ghost beats helped to create dynamic breaks that would rival the most complex IDM programming. Occasionally brandishing a megaphone, Griffin relayed dreamy tales with the cool delivery and acerbic wit of a classic beat poet that reminded this write of Edward Ka-Spel, minus the raspy menace. Funky electronics, sampled guitars, and the inclusion of a live saxophone/clarinet player made for a decisively ambient and marvelously psychedelic experience that left an indelible impression that could only be topped by the following act.
The lights dim, the audience virtually wall-to-wall and sweating anticipation, and then from the darkness a bombastic voice emanates, “I am the god of hellfire! And I bring you FIRE
!” The pounding of frantic breakbeats and deep bass frequencies warble and punch through the speakers as Meat Beat Manifesto unleashes an onslaught of furious electronica, Jack Dangers occasionally hitting the mic for some minimal but strident vocal accompaniment. Ever the audiovisual stimulant with the two laptop confined band members sandwiched between the large backing screen and a smaller translucent screen in front for an innovative take on a familiar formula, MBM’s set presented numerous selections from across the band’s three decades; needless to say, the audience ate up every second, the projections often bouncing off the walls of the venue to immerse the crowd into a dreamlike sonic haze that demonstrated why Meat Beat Manifesto remains a standard bearer for the scene.
Having performed and toured under variants of the name for the past several years, The Revolting Cocks finally claim the title for a one-two punch that delivers unto the audience some of the most beloved and reviled music to emerge from the WaxTrax! era. Transporting the crowd back to the Big Sexy Land
, Richard “23” Jonckheere stood as the patron saint of industrial front men, his surging energy radiating as brightly and as manically as the lights, his lean and imposing silhouette in a near constant blur of motion – age isn’t slowing this man down one bit as he shouts out classics from the first Cocks album like “Attack Ships on Fire,” “38,” “T.V. Mind,” and “No Devotion.” His performance demonstrates an equal reverence to the music as well as to the fans that have heralded the Cocks for three decades, with Jonckheere signaling the passing of the mic with the band’s usual tasteless belligerence, “I’m going to fucking bed!” After a brief interlude, Chris Connelly takes over, his howling Scottish brogue slithering and seething on tracks like “In the Neck,” “Cattle Grind,” and especially on the group’s infamous cover of “(Let’s Get) Physical.” As ever, Paul Barker’s grooving bass lines evoke funkiness and rock & roll swagger, along with Dan Brill’s monolithic drumbeats and Jason Novak’s keyboards and guitars; every element is reproduced perfectly to pay tribute to one of the most exciting periods in modern music.
An event such as ColdWaves is such a mammoth undertaking; bringing this celebration of the industrial music scene to the City of Angels is no exception and not nearly enough credit can be given to Jason Novak and his compatriots for their exhaustive and loving efforts to not only honor Jamie Duffy but for that veneration and respect to continually reinforce and reinvigorate the scene. With the usual raffle giveaways in association with Schecter, Novation, and WaxTrax! presented by Ethan Novak, Brian James Dickie, and Dann Szymczak giving the packed house a hearty taste of what Chicago has been enjoying for the past five years, ColdWaves L.A. absolutely measured up to the examples of community, solidarity, family that has been the festival’s defining attitude since 2012. As well, with the loss of several musicians this year to the ravages of suicide, the group’s efforts with the Darkest Before Dawn charity for suicide prevention can’t be understated. ColdWaves is not the ordinary music festival where one goes to see a myriad of bands, most of which have little in common, put on abbreviated performances and have an opportunity to sell the patrons merch while the venue gouges them for drinks. No, ColdWaves is something very special: a gathering of the various facets of the industrial music scene, a communal ground for fans and artists alike to engage with each other, to remind each other that we are not alone in a fucked up world. ColdWaves matters… it’s important. Regardless of what city you rivetheads live in, whether in Chicago or Los Angeles or anywhere else in the world, there is a scene of which you are a part of and that welcomes and loves you. Welcome to the family.
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Darkest Before Dawn
The Regent Theater
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Front Line Assembly
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Ascension of the Watchers
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The Revolting Cocks
Meat Beat Manifesto
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MC 900 Ft Jesus
Crash Course in Science
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Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)
Photography by Seven Dunbar of I AM SEVEN