Body of Light
There's always a risk to seeing a synth band perform live. The question as to how they will recreate their music live arises, as well as if they make it interesting. Seeing a laptop turned on while another band member karaokes over the music isn't particularly interesting, but neither is a band hunched over their equipment the whole set, never moving in order to recreate the songs note by note. Thankfully Body of Light didn't have either of these problems. The duo divided their duties, one manning the synths and electronics, while front man Alex Jarson brought the songs to live, being one of the most commanding frontmans I've seen in a long time. Despite the small and semi-disinterest of the crowd (in the sense they only seemed to watching because they were at the venue), Jarson played with a passion, twirling and throwing himself around the stage and floor, channeling the band's coldwave with much more intensity then it usually has. The band's performance reminded me of a more reduced version of Cold Cave, less concerned with the atmosphere of the genre then trying to properly express the emotions trapped within the songs. It was perfectly executed, the balance between cold calculation and heated, on the moment intensity.
Seeing Marshstepper wasn't so much a show as it was seeing one of those art school avant-garde shows you always hear about but never actually experience. Until now. The duo set up on the floor, a full table's worth of electronics laid out before them as they started making dark ambient drone as the fog machine started to fill the room. An instantly eerie mood overcame the space as the mood as the noise level rose. It seemed at first that this would just a set of experimental noise, but it became progressively more than that when a man stood before them, peeled off his close, and started smearing mud and water over himself, dragging a knife over his body, and mangling his body in anguish as the music expanded in harshness and intensity. It became obvious only until the end of the set that Marshstepper weren’t a proper band, but the sound track to the disgusting and ugly black parts of the world, which had unfolded in front of the audience’s eyes in increasingly savage ways.
I think the most surprising thing about seeing Pharmakon perform was how little there was to her set. A table setup in the crowd, with a keyboard, some effects, a Walkmen, and microphone all feed through the same machine resulted in some of the loudest and harshest noises I’ve ever heard come pouring out of a speaker. However, what made the show so intense was Pharmakon herself, Margret Chardiet, who brought out the violent essence to her songs into a physical form. Her mere presence, lurching over the electronics and howling into the mic, along with staggering backwards into the crowd heightened the uneasiness that was engulfing every sense. The only flaw was right before Pharmakon’s noise truly engulfed everything, the set ended almost abruptly, after only 20 minutes and three songs. No warning, just a flip of the switch and it was over, as if those previous brutal minutes hadn’t happened at all.
Lust for Youth
Detached. Reserved. Precise. Everything that hadn’t been present in the previous three sets was communicated by Lust for Youth in strides. As Loke Rahbek stayed bent over the electronics the entire set, Hannes Norrvide stood back, head tilted back & eyes closed, seeming lost in another place. He sang the songs with near robotic passion, never adding anything more or a hint of flare to them. However, instead of taking from Lust for Youth's set, all this helped to recreate the distilled and static electronic they create on record. It was exactly as cold and removed as it should have been, in turn allowing the duo to sound great and properly intense in a Suicide sort of way. The most interesting thing about Lust for Youth's performance was how well it synched into the showcase. Even though they were the closest the night came to synth pop, and even got the crowd to (very awkwardly) dance through the whole set, it didn't feel off or out of place. It just felt right.
I saw Destruction Unit practically a year earlier opening for the Men. It was one of the, no THEE most chaotic shows I've ever seen. Firecrackers started going off one song into the set, and the crowd started going crazy, more psychotic then mosh happy. The music didn't help, the dark, drug damaged psychedelic punk the five people on stage were creating by seemingly randomly bashing their instruments was emitting this evil and intense energy into the air. This set didn't reach does levels, but did came close. The fog machine, the staple of the night, helped to trigger flashbacks as the band launched into a brutal blend of noise and psychedelia, with bits of shoegaze and art-punk thrown in for good measure. The band's ability to communicate actual songs instead of just a barrage of pure, crazy noise has improved in the passing year, though the visceral chaos that is the core of the band was still in full effect. Destruction Unit were just as intense, scary, noisy, and awesome as I remembered them to be, just as damaged as a band crafted in the Arizona sun should be.