Memory of a Festival: 023: Cold Waves III

In the annals of crazy plans by me, this one was up there with Festival Kinetik 4.0 in 2011, where my friend Tim and I headed to Ottawa and then Montreal for a heavy, heavy week of music, drinking and sightseeing. Doing Cold Waves III came up from similar origins – a lineup too good to miss, and also a chance to catch up with friends who moved back to Chicago from London last year. Not to mention some sightseeing and drinking (and fantastic food), too. So, with not a great deal of notice comparatively, my financee and I headed the 3,950 miles westward across the Atlantic.

Cold Waves III

Metro, Chicago
26/27-September 2014


Cold Waves III Facebook

If you are so interested, by the way, you can find my tourist photos from Chicago here (mainly skyscapers, blue skies, baseball and the contents of an immense aquarium, if I’m being honest), the various band photos from the festival can be found linked in the box on the left, or by clicking on the photos inline.

Anyway, the festival. Readers into “this sort of thing” will know the inspirations behind it (you can read more here), and three years on from Jamie Duffy’s death, it was fairly clear at points that emotions on the subject are still rather raw, and indeed it added a poignant air at points, too. On a personal note, too, it was also kinda cool to be seeing live music at a venue I grew up knowing about as somewhere my favourite bands all played in a distant land that I never thought I’d get to. Ok, so security were fussier than any London venue, with some infuriating antics at times (having to queue to get out for some air, when there was nowhere to sit inside was particularly irritating), but the sound was generally good (and loud), and the vodka measures were generous to say the least…

Cyanotic setlist:
Terminator Theme (intro)
Signal The Machines
Order Out of Chaos
Transhuman 2.0
Disconnect Me

There was something hugely ironic about seeing Cyanotic open the festival for me. After nine years of waiting to see the band live (including an aborted attempt in Ottawa three years back), I finally scratched this particular itch at Infest last month, only to see them a second time a month later, in their home city! We certainly benefitted this time around from it being a hometown show – rather than the stripped-down, vocals-synths-guitar combo at Infest, this was a full five-piece band that rocked like a bastard. Everything here was a level up from what I saw last time – the live drums added a monstrous punch, particularly to a viciously heavy Order Out of Chaos that fulfilled all of the promise that it showed when I first heard it all those years ago (those breakdowns!), and also the club snark of Deface, whose heavy beats sounded like MechaGodzilla was pounding them out.

Cold Waves III: Chicago: 26/27-Sep 2014: CyanoticA couple of new songs (from recently released Worst Case Scenario Vol. 1, the long-awaited third album, get it here) were also aired, and both feel right at home in the set, as the new material isn’t a case of the band straying too far from their now established template – although there is certainly a sense of refinement and restraint, and absolutely a step-up in production, too.

3TEETH setlist:
Final Product
Pearls 2 Swine
Master of Decay

The last band added to the bill in early summer was this years industrial sensations 3TEETH, and as it turned out this was an astute booking. It is amazing to think that they only first surfaced to any form of attention a bit over a year ago, with the tracks Pearls 2 Swine and Master of Decay that turned an enormous number of heads in industrial over the months that followed. As more material was drip-fed out, along with some spectacular visuals and imagery, it was clear that this was going to be something interesting, and what is more remarkable is that the album, when it dropped in June, turned out to be better than many of us perhaps expected (including me). Earlier live shows had mixed reactions, as far as I could tell, so I was really interested to see how this was going to work out.

Cold Waves III: Chicago: 26/27-Sep 2014: 3TEETHI may be alone in this, but for me the live set didn’t start on a great footing. It should have done – NIHIL is one of their greatest songs, and the thumping, ominous beats that underpin it have been a surprise dancefloor hit when I’ve been DJing in recent months – but something just didn’t feel right, maybe all a bit mechanical and uptight. Once they loosened up, though – perhaps the punishing grooves of Final Product helped – they were unstoppable and absolutely blasted through the set, and I was rather sad when Master of Decay signalled the end of the set. Resistanz-goers, miss this band at your peril next April.

Cold Waves III: Chicago: 26/27-Sep 2014: SMPOne of the bands that I’m highly unlikely to see on our shores is the long-lived project SMP, Jason Bazinet’s hip-hop-influenced industrial project, that certainly didn’t particularly interest my partner, but I really quite loved. But then, industrial hip-hop has long been my thing (Stromkern, Consolidated, etc) and so this was an enjoyable set, and it was great to hear my favourite track, too, the crunching Metal Madness (hint: it does what it says on the tin). Things got more “Did that just happen?” when Jason’s synth player Wade Alin took the mic to do a Christ Analogue track (! – i.e., his old band that recently resurfaced with a re-recorded In Radiant Decay) – No Daughter Icon – that was a searing way for a few people I knew to tick off an item on their industrial bingo cards. The guests were not done there, either, with TranQ from ManufraQture/Prep School Tragedy joining in for run through Somebody Dissin’ You, too.

Tristan Shone’s project Author & Punisher has got an awful lot of near-mainstream (and indeed outside musical circles, too) attention for his impressive technical work on his stage show, with all manner of technology fleshing out what is at the heart one-man-and-a-laptop into something far more fascinating. Like the last time I saw him (in a tiny venue in London), it was bloody loud, too, a fairly unusual mix of industrial noise, depth-charge doom and howling, tortured (and treated within an inch of their lives) vocals that certainly makes for an engaging and interesting set. The heavy-metal-in-ultra-slomo of Terrorbird remains the highlight, mind.

Acumen Nation setlist:
Stone Farm
Parasite Mine
The Paralysis Is Real
Bleed for You
Elective Surgical Strike
My Life’s Last Breath
Gun Lover

Set of the night honours, though, went to Acumen Nation for a blistering show that was fuelled partly by emotion and partly by sheer volume. This being the band Jamie Duffy was of course a member of for many years, it is perhaps understandable that there has been little activity from the band since his death, and this set felt like both a celebration and a tribute to their fallen brother. There was very much an emphasis on their heavier, faster material, and it was set that truly came to live with a jaw-dropping, anthemic Parasite Mine that had most of the crowd singing along, urging the band to push even more. They delivered, too, revisiting pretty much every corner of their back-catalogue and pulling out a few tracks I wasn’t expecting along the way (DjEntrify . Oh yes). As we headed into the last few tracks, though, it was an utter joy (and something of a relief to slow the pace for a few minutes) to hear the electronic revenge tales of Elective Surgical Strike in full, before Kelly Novak joined in to add her vocals to My Life’s Last Breath – there were switches of personnel, there was a general feeling of happiness at what they’d achieved by being here again.

Cold Waves III: Chicago: 26/27-Sep 2014: Acumen NationThere was even time for Jason to ask the crowd if they really wanted to hear Gun Lover again (of course we fucking did, and lo, it ruled), before the closing Fuckface threatened to rip the walls from their foundations. They might have run over time a bit, it may have been a bit too loud at points, but my god, it was amazing to have a chance to see Acumen Nation at last. Never the most subtle of bands, here they bludgeoned the crowd with a set of the heaviest industrial metal I’ve seen in a while.

Die Krupps setlist:
The Dawning of Doom
Der Amboss
Robo Sapien
Metal Machine Music
To the Hilt
Nazis Auf Speed

After that, it was incredible to find that Die Krupps felt a bit tame. They could perhaps be excused also by them very nearly not making it at all thanks to crazy happenings in Chicago Air Traffic Control earlier in the day (saved by a lift from the next state!), but their old-school-EBM with guitars didn’t half fade a bit at times. This was, for me, partly down to a set that was fairly heavy on the recent album material, so we lost out on various of the old “hits” and a few of the newer songs just aren’t really up to the job (Robo Sapien especially). That said, when they open and close with songs of the calibre of The Dawning of Doom and Fatherland, it isn’t that bad. And, I’ve seen them twice before, anyway.

Fear Factory setlist:
The Industrialist
What Will Become?
Self Bias Resistor
Zero Signal

There seemed to be a fair amount of comment about how leftfield a booking Fear Factory was for a festival like this in the run-up, but with hindsight their booking to headline a very much “industrial metal” night made a whole lot of sense, particularly when it became very clear indeed that Fear Factory were in no great mood to play new material, and instead (wisely, maybe?) unleashed a set packed with old favourites that proved an extremely popular choice. Not for the first time in the evening, it took a song or two to get going, but when the bass of Shock ripped through the floor, it was a case of “unleash hell”, with the crowd a writhing mass, bellowing along to almost every word. And that was kinda how it remained for the rest of the set. Burton’s vocals perhaps aren’t quite what they were, particularly on the clean vocals, but he was helped by most of the crowd and anyway, he looked to be enjoying things as much as the crowd were. And when they finally unleashed the really old stuff – i.e Soul of a New Machine and Demanufacture era-material at the end – there was such a reaction that we began to wonder if we were going to get the whole of the latter album, especially as they played the first four songs in order, closing with an apocalyptic Replica that rehabilitated, for me, a song I’ve heard too many times over the years. Image of the evening, though: Lex (vocalist of 3TEETH) absolutely tearing it up at the heart of the bloody enormous moshpit that went from one side of the venue to the other…

Not for the first time over the weekend, and indeed not for the last, the night continued in the confines of Neo further down Clark…

Saturday was a leisurely day after the exertions of the night before, a late start meaning that we only had time for beers at an industrial “social” at Binny’s in the afternoon, pizza at D’Agostinos and then back to the industrial grind. All this rushing around meant I missed opening act Surachai (the only act I missed all weekend), which is a shame, really – they were the one artist on the bill that I knew nothing about and was kinda keen to catch – although I’m of the understanding that my partner will really not be keen on them, so maybe it was a good thing we missed them. In other words, expect a “how did I miss this?” on a Tuesday Ten very soon…

Cold Waves III: Chicago: 26/27-Sep 2014: CausticI wasn’t going to miss Caustic, mind. It is now years since I first saw Caustic (seven years now? 2007 Infest, I think), and have somehow missed Matt Fanale’s antics onstage ever since, even with a couple of other visits to the UK in the meantime. So it was good to get a full band show, which also helped to showcase just how varied his music has become. There is groovy, silly electronics, there is aggrotech pisstaking (666 on the Crucifix) that is better than the songs it is ripping the piss out of, and there is blasting industrial punk (perennial set closer Booze Up and Riot) that rocks hard. But more than anything, Matt Fanale and his revolving cast of bandmates live never lose sight of the fact that being onstage and playing music live can be fun. You don’t need to have a sense of humour bypass to play industrial music, no matter how many times it feels that way with many other bands in the live environment, and Caustic is the gold standard of this.

Cold Waves III: Chicago: 26/27-Sep 2014: ΔAIMONTo no great surprise, much of the remainder of the evening didn’t contain humour particularly (although there were a few chuckle-raising moments). Certainly not ΔAIMON, whose pitch-dark, slow electronics explore the bleaker corners of human nature. Initially lumped in as part of a “movement” named Witch House that frankly was splintering by the time the term became common currency, practically the only thing linking the bands so-pigeonholed was a use of slow, heavy beats. All bands must adapt to survive, of course, and ΔAIMON have done so by broadening their sound, such that there was little of what might the casual observer might call Witch House. This was a raw set – one of raw energy, raw anger and, most unexpectedly, raw vocals. Nancy’s sweet, melodic vocals have always been untreated, of course, and they work brilliantly as a counterpoint to the oppressive atmospheres they create in their music, and Brant’s frequently ominous, alien vocal treatments. So here, it was quite a surprise to hear Brant’s primal roar of a vocal, that certainly made for a different sound, but one no less affecting than the studio versions. I’m certainly looking forward to what comes next from the duo, too, as I get the impression that their restless development of the sound so far has further to go.

Cold Waves III: Chicago: 26/27-Sep 2014: Youth CodeAnother act with a bright future are Youth Code, who have already busted out of the confines of our relatively small scene with coverage in much mightier publications and websites than the likes of I’m one that takes this as a good thing – if it pulls in more curious people into our kind of music, it might help to rehabilitate some of the dwindling sales and attendances that we keep hearing about, and might provide more of a future. But anyway, no band needs anyones “permission” to release any kind of music, and it has become increasingly clear that Youth Code are very much of the attitude that they are going to do whatever they fucking well like.

On this showing, this approach is reaping huge dividends. Much has been made of their background in hardcore punk that is just as much as an element in their music as old-school EBM, and live the influence is made even more stark. From the off, Sarah was pacing the stage, ready to let rip, and once they did, there was little silent space in their sound as it gripped the crowd by the throat and didn’t let go. The beats were relentless, while the synths and vocals colluded to provide a rough-edged, punkish punch that made for one hell of a live show. There was even time for a sweet moment between Ryan and Sarah as they made a point of marking their third anniversary, before unleashing the fury once again within seconds. Best moments, though? The closing pairing of new single Consuming Guilt – a track that takes Stamping Ground-style breakdowns and Nitzer Ebb-style EBM rhythms, and sends them back into the ‘pit spitting fire – and Carried Mask, three minutes of blistering dancefloor-violence from last years debut album, sent much of the crowd into raptures and leaves me in no doubt that their quick rise through the ranks is far from over. This is not a band simply aping the past, they are taking elements from what they know, and forging astounding new ideas from this. More of this and less re-creations of idols and we’d have a fucking amazing scene. As it is, at the moment, we now just have the likes of Youth Code, ∆AIMON and 3TEETH leading the way.

Cold Waves III: Chicago: 26/27-Sep 2014: CocksurePrior to this show, there was heck of a buzz over Cocksure, too – Chris Connelly returning to industrial music again, this time with the assistance of Jason Novak (Cracknation/Acumen Nation/Acucrack, of course), in what has been suggested is a continuation of sorts of the long-running, multi-manned Revolting Cocks project. The recent album and singles have been fairly well-received, too, with the grimy, sleazy feel of RevCo retained while remaining distinctly a different project.

What we ended up with as a live show, frankly, didn’t feel especially engaging. Connelly delivered his vocals with his customary sneer, but there didn’t seem to be much heart in it, and the really, really loud sound set-up seemed to swamp a number of the tracks so that they all sounded all-too-similar. There were a few moments that transcended this – a completely barking Ah Don’ Eat Meat, Bitch!, and a pummelling TKO Mindfuck later on, although I have to say I was a tiny bit surprised to find no guest vocalist appearing for TKO Mindfuck (particularly with Richard 23 being, you know, on next). Pretty much the one disappointment musically of the weekend, really.

Front 242 setlist:
Body to Body
No Shuffle
Take One
Triple X Girlfriend
Quite Unusual
Lovely Day
Commando Mix
Im Rhythmus Bleiben
Welcome to Paradise

Encore 1:
Punish Your Machine

Encore 2:
Master Hit

This being the sixth time that I’ve seen Front 242 live, I’m beginning to realise that I don’t think that it is possible for them to disappoint live. Every single time they have delivered extraordinary EBM-industrial live sets, with an energy that shames bands half their age, but this one seemed that bit more special than other times. Ok, so not quite at the levels of their Kinetik set, but at points it came close. Remarkably, this show fell one day short of the thirtieth anniversary of Front 242 first playing the US (at another venue in Chicago), so as well as a couple of other dates on the East Coast of the US, there was this high-profile show, and they pulled out the stops for it.

This included the second release on the newly-reconstituted WaxTrax! label – a 7″ live single and a rather more expensive box of the same (I decided to go for just the former this time around) – but more importantly perhaps it meant some fairly significant changes to their live set from what I’ve been used to, too. It is still the “vintage” style sound they’ve been going for recently, but the song selection went more in that direction than ever. After a scintillating, Neurobashing-less Moldavia warmed us up – and aside from three tracks from P.U.L.S.E. – there was nothing aired that was newer that Front By Front. Not that we were complaining, as that meant more of their iconic eighties output.

I swear Take One sounds harder, better, funkier every time I hear it, while U-Men was even more anthemic than before, and in this environment, Lovely Day sounded fantastic too (a song I’ve never truly loved, I have to admit), while of the newer tracks, 7Rain was so rebuilt I barely recognised it, although it was definitely an improvement on the old version. The second half of the set, though, was another of those periods where Front 242 remind all attending just how untouchable they can be live. Commando Mix felt like we were about to be strafed through the back wall by a phalanx of Apache helicopters, while Headhunter was treated like the roof-raising anthem that it should be. Even better followed, though, with an amazing, unexpected run through Funkahdafi, a track dominated by possibly the best synth programming 242 ever recorded, then finally closing out the set by turning the room into one massive congregation, twisting evangelist proclaimation as we roared Welcome to Paradise along with the band.

The surprises weren’t done, though, with Kampfbereit (!) being rolled out for the encore, which also neatly acted as a breather before Punish Your Machine did it’s job and battered us into submission as the night came to a close, and Neo beckoned again. Indeed, this was so retro a set, in the main, that some long-time live staples were missing (Religion and Tyranny >For You<, for a start), but this was just so good that they weren’t missed, and in the end, 242 have so many songs worth playing that we’re always going to miss out on something. Will we ever get more new material, though? I’m beginning to wonder if this is a moot point. They advanced their sound – and influenced pretty much everyone else – so much over their active recording period that anything now perhaps wouldn’t push as far, and maybe they just don’t want to risk tarnishing their legacy now? Either way, live they are still utterly, utterly life-affirming and brilliant, and I’ll happily travel overseas again sometime to see them once again if there is no sign of UK live shows in 2015.

This festival, as I’ve noted though, was not just about the music. It was also about friendship, a kinship over shared ideals around music, and a chance to see old friends from afar, and meet new ones too. With what this festival originated from, that side of it is important. The industrial scene is not this dour place where everyone hates everyone else, and snarks about all the bands – as seems to be the popular viewpoint to bring it down at the moment – this was an arena where there were keen fans of the music, and the bands themselves were just as happy to chat with fans too, which was great to see.

Industrial, then, not dead yet. Some styles might be dying out, but they are being replaced by more vibrant sounds that unexpectedly appear to have a wider appeal. As for the 7,900 mile roundtrip we made to do this, was it worth it? Abso-fucking-lutely. Will we do it again? I’d say that is pretty fucking likely too. So with a bit of luck, see you all again next September.

3 thoughts on “Memory of a Festival: 023: Cold Waves III

Leave a Reply