A Night of Redemption: Industrial Music Saves its Soul
By John Vettese
A piss-poor show at the Theater of Living Arts featuring industrial faves Frontline Assembly, Switchblade Symphony, and Spahn Ranch causes me to lose faith in live industrial music.
Kicking the night off, Spahn Ranch managed to pre-sequence everything but the vocals, and did a weak job of pretending to play instruments. Switchblade contributed a dull set, and Frontline managed to spend all of a half-hour rocking before mysteriously disappearing from the stage. After an hour of waiting around, hearing from the security guards “They’re gonna be a while,” wondering if the band was actually going to return to finish performing, it was announced that the show had, in fact, ended. Frontline’s DAT machine broke and even though they WERE using live instruments, the sequenced stuff was so apparently essential that they could not continue.
It was 1:00 am.
I missed the last bus home.
I spent $25 on a cab back to my apartment.
I was pissed.
A fantastic show at the Trocadero featuring EBM gods Apoptygma Berzerk and fairly new industrial faces VNV Nation redeems the genre, and restores my faith in the industrial concert.
VNV Nation took the stage amidst a cloud of smoke to the strains of “Joy,” the opening cut on their 1999 WaxTrax Records release, Praise the Fallen. Like Spahn Ranch, they managed to pre-sequence everything but the vocals. Unlike Spahn Ranch, they didn’t feel the need to pretend to play instruments. Front man Ronan Harris took the front of the stage with a microphone and Mark Jackson stood behind a minimal drum kit, with which he contributed a few actual cymbal crashes.
The music critic in me was telling myself I should hate this: they’re not actually playing any instruments, its all showy bullshit. But the spectator in me didn’t care. Harris had a fantastic stage presence, stomping fiercely about, working the crowd with all the furor of an industrial Black Francis. The crowd showed a tremendous response, dancing to the intensity of “Dark Angel” or “Standing”: the single from their newest effort, Empires.
A backdrop showcased different projections: variations on the band’s logo, dark, urban stills and photos, even song titles when the songs changed. VNV may not have actually been performing, but they certainly were entertaining.
Apoptygma went on to deliver an equally impressive set. In addition to having great sound- heavy and loud, but not overbearing – and an interesting stage set – a futuristic-looking ring of lights as the band’s backdrop – they gave a fantastic performance. They showcased new material from this year’s Welcome To Earth (the joyous opener “Starsign” and the hard dance-floor beats of “Eclipse”) as well as revisiting some older favorites (“Deep Red”, “Burnin’ Heretic”). Their performance was equally danceable, angry, and beautiful. As the first set worked its way down, they played an extremely innovative EBM cover of Metallica’s “Fade To Black”, also found on Welcome. Ending with a beat-heavy re-working of “Mourn”, Apoptygma left the stage to the sound of fans screaming for more (they came back to give a 20-minute encore).
As I left the Troc, drenched in sweat and stinking of cigarettes, I was feeling pretty damn good. The scourge of the previous year’s Frontline Assembly show had been erased. I was enjoying industrial music once again.