The DNA Lounge, San Francisco, CA – 07/13/2017
The DNA Lounge vibrates as the opening act, Suicide Queen, puts on a stomping performance and the light of San Francisco fades in the windows behind the band. People trickle in and the space begins to clamor with excitement. Suicide Queen is gracious and enthusiastic, but soon gives way to Ghostfeeder, an interesting electronic blend that sounds like a mélange of the best elements of God Lives Underwater, Mindless Faith, and Battle Tapes. It’s a testament to talent when an artist sounds better live than in the studio, but Ghostfeeder, like Julien-K and PIG, pulls it off. The performance was a thrashing, energetic affair that had even the stoutest and most stoic goths determined not to dance moving their feet. The band moved deftly from track to track and kept energy high, providing an occasional interlude to speak of gratitude for everyone’s attention. Julien-K’s Ryan Shuck later that evening would surmise it best when he said, “Did anyone expect Ghostfeeder to be that good? It’s like… what?”
Julien-K hit the stage and wasted no time getting people moving with a style reminiscent of The Sisters of Mercy and Depeche Mode delivered through Shuck’s larger-than-life stage performance. Looking a bit like The Walking Dead’s Negan, the group skillfully moved through the track list. “Kick The Bass” got people moving, but tracks like “Flashpoint Riot” got the boots stomping. Meanwhile, Amir Derakh swapped between guitar and tablet, he and keyboardist/bassist Bidi Cobra hard at work putting on a stellar performance, while just a short while before was selling merchandise and chatting with fans.
Galen Waling pulled double duty drumming for PIG and Julien-K, looking as excited to be there as anyone in the audience. Again, Shuck and the entire crew of Julien-K expressed heartfelt thanks for the support of everyone in attendance, even going so far as to compliment the DNA Lounge’s sound crew for “not sucking,” a few minor issues sorted out promptly to ensure that all the performers sounded fantastic. To end the set, Shuck reminiscences about performing at the venue as a member of Orgy quite some time ago, before delivering a stirring rendition of “Blue Monday,” the New Order cover that launched Orgy to regular rotation on MTV.
Raymond Watts had been lurking around prior to the show, speaking with fans, having photos taken, and signing merchandise, as had all the other artists performing that night, but Watts’ immense personality had encapsulated the room as he embraced and spoke with fans as friends and family. Even as he made his way to the stage from the back of the venue, he pushed gently past the horde of admirers who had come to see him, clapping his unholy hands upon the shoulders and backs of those eagerly awaiting his presence. The unsung hero of industrial music was a humble captain, grateful for such a jolly and fervent crew. “Prey & Obey,” “Everything,” “Serial Killer Thriller,” and “Wrecked” were delivered and consumed with great joy by all. Watts, along with En Esch, Günter Schulz, Galen Waling, and Z. Marr were explosions of power and aplomb – smiles, laughs, and other passionate expressions were evident on the faces of everyone in the room, from performer, to industrial music icon, to longtime gray-haired fans. Watts sounded as fantastic and powerful as he did 20 years ago, a thundering baritone growl that boomed through the floors and vibrated the hearts and eardrums of the assembled crowd.
KMFDM tracks were extremely well received, as “Disobedience,” “Flesh,” and “Juke Joint Jezebel” were each given a little PIG touch; they seemed edgier than their classic KMFDM renditions, with this writer surmising that a rerecording of those tracks under Watts’ guidance would be a welcome addition to the ever spreading PIG library. “Kickin’ Ass” was a surprise to hear, with Watts even pointing out that the track was older than many in attendance, the song originally the introductory track of the auspicious KMFDM album, 1986’s What Do You Know, Deutschland?
. Schulz slayed on the guitar with powerful solos that stood as evidence to the man’s proficiency as a musician, while En Esch’s flagrant personality and stage presence were as frantic and as imposing as ever, his growling vocals adding an undertone to many songs. And as usual, Watts’ speaking interludes were grateful and welcoming.
An encore of “Secret Skin” was another welcome surprise and a delight to hear, and for a moment, it was 1994 again. Watts stood like a monolith in a cowboy hat, his lungs resonating with the angst and power that they had 23 years prior when Sin Sex & Salvation
was released on WaxTrax! Records. “Find It, Fuck It, Forget It” closed the show on a high note and Watts descended the stage and headed for the back, his fuzzy pink jacket brushing by fans of all ages. It wasn’t long before he returned for pictures, autographing, handshaking, and socializing, and whether you were buying merchandise or not, Mr. Watts was happy to speak with anyone.
Overall, the night was marked by feelings of appreciation from performers and audience alike; a bonding, heartfelt candor that touched upon every open ear and made those in attendance feel glad for spending their hard-earned money on these artists whose music had, and continues to, enrich their lives. To say that the performances by Ghostfeeder, Julien-K, and PIG were great would be an understatement. It isn’t often that “flawless” is used to describe a live show; things go wrong, people have off nights, and the wear and tear of the road can tarnish even the most unshakeable of rock stars. However, all artists at the DNA Lounge on July 13, 2017 were indeed flawless gods of industrial music, making for one of the best shows to ever grace San Francisco for a mere $20 cover charge; truly an experience to behold!
Article by Brian McLelland (BMcLelland)
Photography by Christiana Sprenger-McLelland (CSMcLelland)
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