Memory of a Festival: 011.4: Festival Kinetik v4.0 – Phase 04

As Sunday’s show began, it was plainly clear that the early bands were going to suffer from the same issue that Infest Sunday does – that everyone had a very, very heavy night the night before (myself included, although that was mainly because I was so buzzing following 242 that I couldn’t possibly sleep for an hour or two). So it meant that the first couple of bands perhaps didn’t have the same sized crowd as everyone else, and to be honest didn’t have my total attention either, as we were catching up with a few New Yorkers we’d met and recommended the last Urceus Exit album to (an album I finally managed to pick up on CD after 18 months of trying this weekend) – well, I say New Yorkers.

Festival Kinetik 4.0: Phase 04: Sunday

Festival Kinetik v4.0
Live @ Metropolis and Club Soda, Montreal, Canada
19-23 May 2011

Phase 01
Phase 02
Phase 03
Phase 04
Phase 05

One of them was Andy, who knows more than a few people I know in London! So this meant that Squarehead were only heard in the background. One of Sebastian Komor’s many projects, they were more electro-based, and to be honest weren’t half as good as Komor Kommando. Still, it was nice to hear a thumping Electro Body Music to close with, and I’m certain I heard a Zombie Girl song in there somewhere.

I really wanted to love System Syn more than I did, too. It’s not that they were bad, by any stretch, it’s just that only certain songs really caught my attention. Still, they did play their best two songs (IMHO): Broken Fingers and Chemical. Bonus points also for an unexpected cover of Losing My Religion, which worked a hell of a lot better than you might expect. I saw and listened to more of Bruderschaft, who with their status as more of a loose collective than a band ended up with a few guest vocalists, although it was Tom Shear that performed most of it, assisted by Daniel Graves and Clint Carney. Highlights, rather obviously, were the two tracks that have seen official releases – a quite staggering Return that for all the world sounds like A23 at their best, while the song that started this project in the first place, Forever, was Ronan Harris-free, but Tom Shear did a damned good job in his place. So, yeah, not too bad. It would be nice to see Return get a release at some point, though…

What sounded like an utter nightmare for Mind.In.A.Box in getting to Montreal (flight issues, luggage/kit issues…) ended up with Assemblage 23 and MIAB swapping places in the lineup, so A23 ended up playing rather earlier than expected. Like a number of other bands playing over the weekend, I’ve seen A23 a number of times in the past, and again like other bands over this weekend, they stepped things up and produced a simply fantastic show.

Assemblage23 setlist

Let The Wind Erase Me

For me, A23 are the one poppier-industrial-whatever act whose songs I have an emotional connection with – like others clearly have with VNV, perhaps. So I thought A23 were absolutely wonderful. A short-but-sweet fifty minute set that flew past, bringing up more than a few memories attached to particular songs along the way, and other than missing out my favourite song (Let Me Be Your Armor, if you must know) I really couldn’t fault anything in the set. The undisputed highlights for me, though, were a bristling Collapse and the usual close of Disappoint – a song that sometimes feels like you are intruding on Tom Shear’s grief – here it was an entire crowd going through it with him. What is even better? I get to see them again in London in a few weeks time.

Festival Kinetik 4.0: Phase 04: Solitary Experiments

One band that I was really looking forward to was Solitary Experiments – a band who I’ve never had the chance to see in the past. And happily, they didn’t disappoint – I’ve always felt that they have been somewhat underrated and, perhaps, unfairly dismissed as a band that simply exist in the shadows of their peers. This show helped to dispel that notion and also remind just how many great songs they have.

Solitary Experiments setlist:

Road To Horizon
Pale Candle Light
A Rush Of Ecstasy
Still Alive
The Dark Inside Me
A Point Of View
Rise and Fall

A good mix of old and new songs, and a surprising number of the North American crowd clearly knew most if not all of the songs, too. But while it’s the more uptempo songs that grab the attention – and let’s be honest, Pale Candle Light is an awesome rush live – when they slow things down is where things get really extraordinary. They only did this once, with the pitch black heart of The Dark Inside Me, a song of such beauty and despair that it pretty much overshadowed every other song that followed it. Worth waiting years to see them live purely for that song, never mind the rest of the excellent set.

Festival Kinetik 4.0: Phase 04: Covenant

Covenant were the main headliners of the evening – despite there being another band to follow – and I have to confess that they were a bit of a mixed bag. This isn’t unusual with Covenant, though. I’ve seen them live more than a few times and I’ve had some good shows, some great shows and one phenomenal show. This was somewhere between good and great – when they hit their stride, they are absolutely unstoppable: the usual crowd favourites of We Stand Alone, Ritual Noise and Like Tears In Rain back-to-back were utterly joyous, particularly the familiar thrill as the crowd go wild when We Stand Alone kicks off.

Covenant setlist:

Modern Ruin
Judge of My Domain
The Men
The Beauty and the Grace
We Stand Alone
Ritual Noise
Like Tears In Rain

Call The Ships To Port

But that was tempered by rambling intros to songs, missed cues for vocals, and closing with recent single Lightbringer, that plainly and simply sounds terrible live. Not only is it missing Necro Facility, of course, but Daniel Myer’s vocals just felt wrong, and the musical arrangement sounded all over the place. Much better of the newer songs was Judge of My Domain, which sounds every bit the dancefloor monster that it first appears to be when heard on the album.

They also appeared to overrun considerably, to the apparent consternation of the stage manager if various angry-looking gestures to the side of the stage as Lightbringer closed were interpreted correctly. However mass demands from the crowd for an encore were eventually heeded, and proceedings were brought to a close by a thundering Call The Ships To Port, which made for a far better ending. I’m beginning to appreciate Modern Ruin more and more now I’ve had the chance to listen to it enough, but I do wonder about the live show. Something just doesn’t seem right at all.

Festival Kinetik 4.0: Phase 04: Mind.In.A.Box

Mind.In.A.Box were always going to be the joker in the pack, I thought, and so it proved – their music on record is unlike no other band, and live they manage to maintain that reputation by completely changing their setup. On record they are a lush, intricately detailed electronic sweep, that demands repeated close listening to uncover the delights within (and there are many of them), and their linking of the first three albums into one long story (contained within the CD booklets) was a fascinating concept that for once actually worked brilliantly. As for the live show? Well, I’d heard a lot about how much effort the band had gone into to make sure that the live show was different…but nothing could quite prepared us for just how much they change things up. Basically, live they turn it into an electronic prog-rock show.

Mind.In.A.Box setlist:

Remember/Light and Dark
Lost Alone

No, seriously. And it was astonishing to watch. Some songs are changed beyond all recognition – Certainty took us half the song, until the chorus, to finally work out what it was amid the guitars, and 8bits is turned into an amazing stadium-rock track. New track Remember, seemed to have opened the set (with bits of Light and Dark in there too) and has been around on the internet for a while, can’t be released soon enough, while some songs worked very well with the full live band (including bass and guitar, and live drums) without departing much from the original sound – in particular a quite wonderfully fragile Fear and the near-hiphop rhythms of Stalkers (my favourite miab track by far). Things were closed off by a quite glorious Change, that judging on the reaction it got from the surprisingly big crowd is something of a fan favourite.

This was, as I’ve already noted, very very different from any other band here. It’s a brave band that makes such a huge stylistic shift for their live show like this, but I don’t think there is any doubt that they pull it off brilliantly, and I think they should be applauded for, er, thinking outside the box and going beyond the idea of simply repeating the same electronics onstage. Make no mistake, though – this is not a show that everyone will love, and in particular if you don’t know and love the songs in the first place, you may find this an extremely difficult band to enjoy live. So, for those of you planning on going to Infest, make sure you listen to this band’s albums first. They are brilliant anyway, and if you’ve not heard them before, you are missing out on the most unique band in the European industrial scene.

Onto Phase 05

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