Over the weekend: Vendetta Festival

Categories: Concert Reviews
The Horrorist (Tom Murphy)

Saturday, September 26, 2009
Bar Standard
Sunday, September 27, 2009
Exdo Events Center

This past weekend marked the third annual Vendetta Festival, a gathering of some of the best industrial and dark dance acts from around the world. We made it to two out of three days of the fest, the biggest of its kind in this country, and caught a number of more than thirty acts who performed. Here's a complete rundown of what we saw.


The Horrorist, 11 p.m., Bar Standard
What It Was Like:
Being clobbered by sound without the pain.

The Horrorists-3.jpg
The Horrorist (Eric Gruniesen)
Oliver Chesler, aka The Horrorist, was an immediately commanding figure dressed entirely in black like some kind of militant figure from the final sequences from The Wall -- armband included. Before he performed, the MC asked the audience if anyone liked Nitzer Ebb and Front 242, and then told us that the Horrorist took it to the next level -- which he then did. The electronic percussion didn't just provide a driving rhythm track -- it was a nearly abrasive assault on the senses. A lot of EBM these days is tame, uninspired drivel but the Horrorist explored the possibilities of the genre and made it exciting and almost scary again. I'm sure that if someone unfamiliar with the use of fascistic, authoritarian imagery and performance techniques to subvert that mindset saw this show, that person might think Chesler was an adherent to Goebbels and Hitler but that is not what this music was about.

Chesler used a bright utility light as a prop and kind of a special effect like Diogenes toting his lantern about Athens looking for one honest man, illuminating the truth. And like Diogenes, Chesler was a provocative figure, one that inspired engagement and being awake to the horrors and possibilities of life in the modern world. During the course of the set, the Horrorist performed his infamous "One Night In NYC," and while it was as creepy as I'd heard, it was clearly not a celebration of its subject of a fifteen-year-old girl being brutalized after a night on the town trying to have fun and hooking up with the wrong guy.

Verdict: A lot of electronic music is pretty sedate and merely loud. The Horrorist's intense and energetic performance really made this a show worth going to after a long night.

Terrorfakt (Tom Murphy)

Terrorfakt, 12 a.m., Bar Standard
What It Was Like:
Going to metal shop class in ninth grade with cool kids instead of mostly jerks.

This was a five-member edition of Terrorfakt, and before performing, a couple of the members set up what looked like an old oil barrel converted into a drum and a shopping cart filled with metal items, including an arm and ball from a truck hitch and a satellite TV dish. When I saw the hand grinder on the floor, I had no idea what these guys had in mind except that maybe they'd do something like a smaller scale Einsturzende Neubauten type of show.

The music began as textured noise, white and otherwise, effected from synths, laptops and other devices, all punctuated by electronic percussion and samples from movies. One member initially hit the oil barrel drum but soon picked up the grinder and set it to the barrel, sending a shower of sparks and tiny metal flecks into the audience in a great arc. The contact of the grinder with the metal created a unique sound that wasn't really percussion but clearly had a physicality to its tone because it wasn't strictly sustained, but somewhere in between. The spectacle of the sparks became a focal point for the audience and its visceral and visual character enhanced what was essentially truly industrial noise music, as good as it was. At one point, another member of the band that looked like a crazed, post-apocalyptic zombie took to the grinder and sent waves of sparks in the same sorts of arcs and straight ahead sheets off the barrel, the shopping cart and especially off the satellite TV dish. The childlike glee with which he took to this task made for an unforgettable impression of fun-loving destruction.

Verdict: Not since I last saw Einsturzende Neubauten have I seen a group make such a creative use of unconventional sounds and mixed it in so well with more straight ahead industrial music.

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