Nov 2017 04

The Metro, Chicago, IL – Sunday, 10/01/2017
ColdWaves VI


It’s Sunday, the first of October in 2017; it has been a tumultuous and emotionally draining year, not just for the political state of the world, but with the untimely passing of several musical artists, leaving in many a void that could only be filled by an event such as ColdWaves. In the past, the festival spanned two nights to showcase virtually every corner of the underground industrial music scene, but this year offered a third night and one of the most diverse assemblies of the assorted styles that encompass the scene to make for the biggest ColdWaves yet. By this time, many in attendance were already well spent in their energy reserves, still nursing hangovers and physical soreness from extended periods of dancing and moshing; add to that another cold and windy evening, but none of this was enough to dissuade anyone from keeping the rivets pounding and the bass lines pulsing at The Metro as the third night of ColdWaves VI began.


This writer must express disappointment at the fact that Germany’s Lord of the Lost was unable to perform, having been denied by the U.S. authorities the proper visas, thus depriving the ColdWaves crowd of one of Europe’s most talked about and most dynamic live acts. Not ones to leave the patrons hanging, ColdWaves called upon the services of one Sanford Parker to begin the night with a barrage of distorted noise and industrial beats, and while there was little in the way of monitors or soundcheck, Parker didn’t let these limitations hamper his efforts to get people prepped and ready for a night of industrialized bliss.


Cyanotic has proven to be an integral part of the ColdWaves family, with this year’s appearance showcasing the band’s latest evolution toward a sleeker, more electronic, but no less heavy brand of cybernetic audio excellence. With fellow electro warriors Relic – keyboardist Jordan Davis and drummer Dan Dickershied – backing up front man Sean Payne and bassist Kevin Barron, Cyanotic unleashed a pummeling onslaught of tracks from the band’s latest album, Tech Noir, released just days before. There may have been no guitars, but Barron’s bass lines and the scathing electronics and percussive attacks in songs like “Clear a Path,” “Deadweight,” and “Mainlining Tension” measured up in sonic brutality to old favorites like “Deface” and “Sensory Overload,” getting the audience roaring like a mechanized army ready to engage in a vicious offensive against the follies of humanity.


Next to take the stage was Savannah, Georgia’s Boy Harsher, following in the stylistic footsteps of Replicant and Grün Wasser with pulsating synths, minimal beats, and ambient melodies that recall the best synthpop and new wave of the ’80s. However, though equally danceable, the sensual and saccharine atmospheres that pervade Boy Harsher’s style stand apart from others in the synthwave trend, with Jae Matthews’ stage presence bearing the ghostly wispiness of a musical necromancer akin to an electro Stevie Nicks. With Augustus Miller’s layered electronics, effective in their simplicity and as alluring in their tones as Matthews’ vocal performance, Boy Harsher presented a fresh take on the modes of the past. And while we’re speaking of the past, Italian EBM/industrial act Pankow proved onstage to be an act whose influence to the early developments of the genre is far too understated. Leave it to ColdWaves to acquaint today’s audiences with one of the forerunners of EBM as the band bludgeons the crowd with sociopolitical lyrics, shrilly electronic bass lines, and thunderous beats. Perhaps the highlight of Pankow’s set was “Blockupy,” the chorus eliciting chants from the crowd and priming listeners for the band’s upcoming new album.


It has been several years since we’ve heard from ohGr, with vocalist Nivek Ogre and his cohorts focusing primarily on Skinny Puppy since the 2011 release of unDeveloped – though no less experimental, ohGr’s music offered a more melodic, even pop structured style that effectively showed the range of Ogre’s vocal talents. Awash in blue lighting and donning a strangely organic mask, Ogre stands heroic, dressed in an oddly formal gothic suit that gives him the welcome appearance of an elder statesman from a post-apocalyptic nightmare. He’s been one of the scene’s most celebrated performers for over three decades, but with each slinky and slithery movement, the man shows no signs of wear or loss of vitality, especially with his snakelike dance motions during “Cracker,” which yielded perhaps the loudest applause of the entire event. As a live unit, ohGr’s austere stage setup belied the intensely layered and dynamic song constructions, with Justin Bennett’s powerful drumming establishing a firm spinal column upon which bassist William Morrison, keyboardist Dustin Schultz, and guitarist Matthew Setzer could support, all of them ably backing Ogre on vocals for a dark choir of steely harmonization that gave tracks like “maJiK,” “wAteR,” “Nitwitz,” and “Shhh” added depth. With the vigor and force of a rock band and the throbbing rhythmic weight of the electronics, ohGr was clearly the highlight of the evening for many in attendance.


Finally, the lights dim, the familiar orchestral fanfare begins, and the Ultra Heavy Beat sensation known as KMFDM takes to the stage to launch into a brutal set of some of the best industrial/rock the genre has ever offered. Decked out in a leather biker jacket and wearing his signature aviator shades, front man Sascha Konietzko stands with the strident confidence of a man well aware of the gravitas of his presence – sometimes referred to as the “father of industrial/rock,” and certainly one of the pioneering figures in blending punk/rock attitudes with caustic electronics, topped off by raging heavy metal riffs and sociopolitical lyrics that remain as poignant and as relevant as ever, Konietzko’s words are as much a rallying cry against mediocrity and conformity now as they were during the WaxTrax! era of the late ’80s and early ’90s. Vivacious and vicious, Lucia Cifarelli brings her feminine aggression to the stage, movements sexy and serpentine and vocals as malignant as they are melodic, with past favorites like “Animal Out” and “Amnesia” continuing to rile the crowd up. Despite having little prep time, guitarist Andee Blacksugar immediately impresses with his proficiency in delivering guttural riffs and incendiary solos, particularly on the newer tracks like “Hell Yeah,” “Glam Glitz Guts & Gore,” “Burning Brain,” and “Total State Machine,” the latter track being a particular showcase for the brute percussive force of longtime drummer Andy Selway. For those who would yearn for the band’s earlier sounds, the obligatory hits like “Light,” “A Drug Against War,” and “Godlike” were welcomed fervently, but it was perhaps the addition of “Virus” to the set list – a song not performed live by the band since… well, this writer can’t recall when – that really brought the audience back to what they loved about the Ultra Heavy Beat. Even as the last notes and beats resonated through the electric air, the night was slow to reach its conclusion as rising industrial/pop sensation KANGA performed an energetic set in the G-Man Tavern next door, bringing her spastic live performance to a more intimate setting of a packed room where the last festive libations were to be had.


Every year since Jamie Duffy left us in 2012 has been a difficult reminder of how fragile we are as human beings, and that even the best of us is enduring emotional turmoil that can be oppressive and overwhelming. The loss of fellow musicians in both the underground and mainstream music scenes has made the significance of ColdWaves all the more palpable. Sure, it’s a festival for people to enjoy music, share a few drinks and stories, maybe have the opportunity to win some swag and gear from sponsors like WaxTrax! Records, Schecter, and Novation, but ColdWaves is so much more than that, so much more than a simple fundraiser/charity event for suicide prevention. It’s a celebration of the music scene that Jamie Duffy loved so much, bridging the past and the present to hopefully craft a more perfect future, with every patron a willing and enthusiastic participant in not only paying tribute to him but to each other. This writer must on a personal note express his gratitude and love to Pat “MamaKidd” Duffy, whose son played such an integral part in my upbringing and my understanding of music that I’d be a very different person without him. As well, simply not enough good can be said of Jason Novak whose love for his friend, musical partner, and brother remains so strong that ColdWaves is his effort to ensure that nobody ever feel that loss too soon… and what an undertaking, as ColdWaves VI brought three nights of some of the best that the industrial music scene has had to offer for nearly four decades. With 2017 also giving us the first ColdWaves event to take place in Los Angeles, the state of the scene is strong and the spirit of Jamie Duffy is undoubtedly continuing to rock n’ rivet with the rest of us.


Next: ColdWaves L.A.!


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Darkest Before Dawn
The Metro, Chicago
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WaxTrax! Records
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Boy Harsher
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Sanford Parker
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Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)
Photography by MizTabby Patton (MizTabby)

ColdWaves VI – Main Event, Night 3 (10/01/2017)

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