doktorjohn.com

Astronomical Paintings

Filed under: My Art,Uncategorized — doktorjohn January 31, 2018 @ 1:44 pm

Jupiter and Its 4 Galilean Moons – Oil on Canvas[/caption]Executed at One River School of Art, Allendale, NJ

Oil on Canvas

New Dark Age – January 2018

Filed under: Uncategorized — doktorjohn January 19, 2018 @ 8:38 pm

The Red Party

December 9 2017 was the last iteration of 2017 of the enormously successful Red Party at the Mercury Lounge. As always host Sean Templar and Jared started the night at the deejay booth, and were joined this night by DJ Jose Francis of the biweekly Dark Dance show on InClub Radio, an internet station out of Peru. The setlist included the Ramones, Misfits, Corpus Delecti, Siouxsie, Cocteau Twins and the Wake among many others.

Hostess Mandana Banshee Templar manned a merchandise stand selling “Red Merch,” i.e. shirts, buttons and the like with one form or another of the Red Party logo..

The high point of the party came with a live performance by a band called Pawns. Shortly after midnight, this anarcho-deathrock four piece group came on in a rather vicious, punkish form with pounding rhythms, insistent guitar chants and bellowing vocals.

The Pawns have a rather comely bass player in Jenna Graham. Guitarist Noel Mateus. And drummer Stephen Reader are led by frantic-energetic vocalist Gage, a Hollywood-handsome youth with a head of spiked blond hair and a political bent.

Pawns started up in 2013 with release of an eponymous 7”, and follwed with another 7” entitled “Eternal Return.” This past summer they released an LP, “The Gallows” under Mass Media records.
We spoke to gage in a quiet corner of Mercury Lounge and he cited as influence various bands like Bauhaus, Sisters of Mercy, Crass, Honey Bane, and others. Those in the audience whom I polled agreed that the dominant influence was Joy Division. To me they sounded like if Joy Division had died, gone to Hell and started broadcasting from the underworld.

Up to now, Pawns have gone on three tours mainly on the West Coast. New Dark Age looked them up on Bandcamp and found their recordings every bit as appealing as their live performance.

New Year’s Eve Party

“Forever Young”

Mandana Banshee, Sean Templar and the Red Party hosted what they called a “post countdown” party at Mercury Lounge which started around midnight at the turn of the new year backed by deejays Matt V Christ, Michael T and Ash with guest host DJ Erik Aengel. This time as promised it was an all New Wave, 80s night, and indeed it was with selections from the archives of such gems of that decade as Pet Shop Boys, Duran Duran, the Eurhythmics, the Pogues and Modern English filling the air and energizing the dance floor. Never-fail, consistently-played standards such as Bauhaus, the Cure and Joy Division also made the setlist, although they don’t wait for an 80s night, but make the setlist every weekend at every club in the scene.

The party went on until 6 a.m. and indeed it was packed from the start to finish with Red Party regulars and hordes of revelers from other, earlier parties who didn’t want to quit until the dawn’s early light. Gracious queen of hospitality Mandana circulated, taking photos and seeing to it that everyone had the best and most memorable night of 2018.

Such luminaries of the downtown NYC music scene as Christian Dryden of the Ritualists, Jennifer Bobbe of Night Gallery, Torrin Krrell and Sir William Welles were in attendance.

Recordings

Under What Flag – A Tribute to Fad Gadget

Various Artists

Cleopatra Records

This compilation of 15 tracks, each featuring a different band, covers a wide sampling of the body of work of Mute Recording artist Fad Gadget, the British electronic musician who was active from 1979 until retiring in 1993, emerging briefly in 2001 to tour with Dépêche Mode before passing away in 2002 at age 45. The Periodic Table of Synthpop © lists FG as “foundational synthpop,” for its early contribution to the New Wave and Industrial genres blending pop-style rhythms with experimental, mechanical sounds, industrial noise and the sounds of found objects. Think drills, jars, cans and printing presses.

Twelve different of FG’s tracks (FG is Frank Tovey) get the treatment from 15 different artists who address, each in their own way, FG’s deadpan, bleak and sometimes comical criticism of our modern, mechanized society and its norms as well as deviants.

FG’s mix of rock, punk, folk and disco is no longer very popular. The first track, on this album, “Collapsing New People” is the only one currently being played with any frequency at clubs in the metropolitan area. Bioassay’s cover is very close to the original in vocals, rhythm and accompaniment and is immediately recognizable.

There are three versions of “Back to Nature” in which FG sets the tone with a slow, determined cadence, ominous vocals, tropical bird sounds and the hiss of a rain downpour. Noir’s version has a richer vocal style than FG. Leaether Strip’s is faster paced (what do you expect?) and Cortex Defect’s is the most faithful of the three.

There are also three versions of “Insecticide,” a nasty, noisy piece which features a distorted growl amidst a juggernaut of electro-mechanical sounds, and all three covers have eerie spoken word and synthetic belching sounds as well as a relentlessly driving rhythm.

There are two entries of “The Box” including one by Missing Witness that sounds distant like it is coming from someone actually trapped inside an elevator. There are single entries of “State of the Nation,” “Fireside Favorite,” etc. The cautionary tale that is “Rickey’s Hand” is jumpy and jivey in both the original and in Blicky’s faithful cover and it warns about drinking and driving. Canter’s version of it however is so mellow and dreamy that it fails to raise the alarm of the original.

Blakk Glass’ version of the once-popular “Lady Shave’ quite appropriately features a female vocalist which puts a whole different spin on FG’s original intent. Malegant’s viciously sarcastic, Cockney-accented mockery of gun ownership and presumed male privilege is way harsher than FG’s original, but the intention is the same.

There were too many tracks and bands with varying levels of originality vs. faithfulness to FG’s originals to review each and every. The scope of this tribute album is a testimonial to the foundational significance of Fad Gadget, who remains an icon of the post-punk, synthwave and industrial scene.

Museums

The Rubin Museum

150 West 17th Street NYC

This extraordinary museum is dedicated to the art, religion and philosophy of the Himalayas and surrounding cultures of India, Nepal, etc. From June until January of this year, the focus was upon the world of sound.

The exhibition provided an immersive experience wherein the visitor was led to listen with the whole body. It included placing hands upon sound-laden walls, lying on a slab in a sounding environment, a room where the sacred chant “Om” is is sung (chanted) by choirs in various ways. There are also countless stations where recorded voices, ambient drone sounds and experimental music can be sampled. A room with flashing color imagery was fitted with a “seizure warning” placard.

Tibetan ritual music, various instruments, contemporary audio artists and acoustic designers were all available to visitors. A parabolic metal disc sat at the bottom of the iconic spiral staircase, reflecting a re-issuing the soundscape that traveled up and down the building’s six-storey central atrium.

Masterpieces of Himalayan Art are on view until May of 2018. The Lord of Death image and The Lords of the Cremation are reproduced here.

Milestones

Rock & Roll Hall of Fame Induction

Gothic, punk and industrial artists are used to being overlooked during the selection process by the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and by mainstream media in general, for that matter. We still represent a marginalized, select – shall we say “elite” musical subculture. Many day-crawlers have heard of the Cure, but never took note of a single song by them. Maybe one, if it was featured on MTV in past decades. Mention the name Peter Murphy and your friends and family will generally draw a blank. I’m talking about rock & roll fans among them. Never mind Joy Division or Bauhaus. The vast majority of them will be clueless with respect to the music to which we are committed.

So it isn’t any wonder that this year’s inductees failed to include a significant contingent from the gothic, punk and industrial scene.

Eligible are those whose first commercial recording was at least 25 years before coming under consideration. Nirvana made it in 2014 directly upon becoming eligible. For this year, 2017, it would be 1992 or earlier. Inductees were chosen by a panel of 1000 music executives, artists and past winners. Some consideration was given to fans whose counted online votes usually gain entry for a few added artists.

Online fan voters succeeded in slipping New Wavers, the Cars in, among the usual suspects of pop, gospel and classic rockers, but weren’t able to place Judas Priest, Kate Bush, the Eurhythmics or Depeche Mode into the Hall of Fame despite campaigns in behalf of each.

Nuptials

Mainstays of the art and music scene in the gothic-industrial community of north Jersey, noted photographer Ben Faresich (Times Arrow Photography) and art educator Nicole Zanatakos (QXT’s barista/hostess) wed in a much anticipated, traditional Greek Orthodox ceremony on November 25 in Middletown NY surrounded by family and a cross-section of the QXT’s management and social circle. A spectacular and well-attended reception followed, with an afterparty lasting into the wee hours of Sunday morning. Best wishes from all in the north Jersey gothic, punk and industrial art and music circle!

John Fryer at Parlor Bar & Restaurant NYC

Legendary producer and musician John Fryer performed a rare weekend deejay gig at the upper West Side’s Parlor Bar & Restaurant, manning the booth in the downstairs lounge area both Friday and Saturday night.

Fryer has spent a stellar career contributing personally and heavily to two distinct musical styles: industrial – working with the likes of NIN – and the ethereal/trip hop sound – epitomized by This Mortal Coil and Cocteau Twins. One of two essential members of the 4AD band, This Mortal Coil, for which he performed keyboards, strings and synthesizer sequencing, Fryer is especially well known for work with Mute, Rough Trade and Beggar’s Banquet record labels as well as industrial giants Stabbing Westward and Nine Inch Nails and is the essential collaborator with Trent Reznor in producing “Pretty Hate Machine.” He has served as producer, mixer, engineer and musician with Depeche Mode, the Pixies, Lush, Bauhaus, Modern English and Dead Can Dance.

Fryer was fortunately passing through the NYC area on his way back from Senegal, working with African musicians before returning to his base in Los Angeles. His current venture is serving as musician and producer for his own project, Black Needle Noise. Publicist Rey Roldan tipped us off regarding Fryer’s appearance and was on hand to greet and orient attendees. A crowd of in-the-know devotees of PostPunk pounded the dance floor while Fryer served up an eclectic mix of synth pop, goth and industrial dance tracks, taking breaks to chat with admirers and offering tips on what was to come in the next wave of new music.

New Dark Age for December 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — doktorjohn December 28, 2017 @ 3:50 pm


Radio Station

Filed under: My Art,Uncategorized — doktorjohn December 18, 2017 @ 10:10 pm

Old, semi-abandoned WMCA radio station in the Meadowlands, between Kearney and Jersey City. During the late 50s and early 60s, WMCA was the rock & roll music station to listen to, playing mainly doo-wop on your transistor radio, way down at the lower end of the dial, around 540 AM.

Radio Station acrylic on canvas 20″ X 16″

New Dark Age – Nov 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — doktorjohn November 16, 2017 @ 1:39 pm

OhGr on stage at Irving Plaza

Motionless in White on stage at the Electric Factory

New Dark Age – September 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — doktorjohn September 6, 2017 @ 9:27 pm

[/caption]

Nights Out

Infernoir at QXT’s
Newark NJ

A weekend seems incomplete without an evening at QXT’s, the metropolitan area’s premier and only dedicated gothic dance club and watering hole in the heart of gritty, industrial Newark, NJ. So Friday night September 1, we stepped in early, taking advantage of the policy of free entry for ladies before 11 pm.

The theme this night and every first Friday, was “Infernoir” a portmanteau of the words “Inferno” and “Noir,” and sees itself as an import of a similar club night originating in Germany. On the main floor, upholding the standard, were DJs Damian Plague and DJ Ash who motivated dancers with some synthwave as well as beloved standards from the Sisters, Wolfsheim and Siouxsie and the Banshees. For atmosphere, the ultra horrific gore-fest, the original “Hellraiser” movie, was showing on the main floor big screen and on the various monitors around the bar.

We also popped downstairs to the Crypt which was just opening up, and were soon tempted over to Area 51, the other basement hangout, where DJ Mykill Hrunka’s heavy-duty industrial mix encouraged us to briefly punish the pavement before calling it an early night and heading home to prepare for the next day’s adventure.


The Redrum Ball at Bowery Electric

Manhattan, NY

In keeping with the tradition of holding this event on those Sunday nights which precede Monday legal holidays, September 3 marked another iteration of the Redrum Ball. Impresario and host Sir William Welles dedicated it with the theme “Grindhouse,” referring to the cult interest in exploitation style, low budget horror movies, popular among denizens of the dark-scene underground culture.

The Bowery Electric has a nicely decorated upstairs bar area where top-forties from the 70s and r & b classics prevail. The Redrum, however, took place in the cellar below this, where an adequate dance floor and a small, raised stage are situated a few steps down, separated by railings from the basement bar area. [caption id="attachment_2291" align="alignnone" width="520"] DJs Erik Aengel and Sean Templar

The DJ booth is perched way up in a far corner overlooking the dance floor, where celebrity deejays from the Goth scene, Sean Templar, Erik Aengel and Matt V Christ carried out their duties, still accessible to requests.

Celebrity guest host Colin Cunningham, current star of the Syfy Channel’s “Blood Drive” series opened the event and, along with Sir William made comments, ran raffles and introduced exotic dancer Cassandra Rosebeetle who performed a striptease while decorously applying theatrical blood to her lovely and mostly exposed physique.

Grindhouse favorite “Evil Dead” was projected onto a wall adjacent to the dance floor. A pull down screen was present, but mercifully it was left retracted, so the most disturbingly gory scenes were muted by the stone, brick and peeling plaster wall on which the images were cast.

There were raffle drawings and giveaways of posters and tee-shirts and – most notably – a $200 certificate for merchandise at Gothic Renaissance the famed costume, clothing and accessories emporium.

Matt V Christ menacing visitors with prop chainsaw

Makeup artist Joseph Drobezko made an appearance and ArchAngel came late to spin. The deejays did admirably playing the likes of the Cure ‘s “A Forest,” Ministry’s “Revenge,” London After Midnight’s “Kiss” and “A Day” by Clan of Xymox, among other favs.

LIVE!

Social Distortion
Starland Ballroom
Aug. 12, 2017

By Doktor John
Sayreville NJ

Just before the band took the stage – while the packed room was still dark – the faux ominous beat of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ “I Put a Spell On You” (1956) filled the room and his operatic baritone served as powerful intro to what was to follow. Bright and multicolored lights came up and Social D took the stage like a musical riot with the jubilant “Still Alive” off the most recent (2011) album, “Hard Times and Nursery Rhymes.” The sobering “99 to Life” confessional from “Somewhere Between Heaven and Hell” (1992) was next, then back to “Hard Times” for “Gimme the Sweet and Lowdown” and “California Hustle and Flow.” “King of Fools” and “Dear Lover” followed.

The set closely followed the recent performances earlier in the tour, hitting on “White Light, White Heat, White Trash,” “Mommy’s Little Monster” (the album, not the song) and the eponymous first album, with the iconic “Ball and Chain,” which seems to be about alcoholism, not drugs. A bluesy, instrumental interlude followed, then “Another State of Mind,” the title track for the motion picture documentary on the early 80s punk scene.

At this point, Mike Ness made reference to his band’s tradition for honoring and covering the great legends of rock and country music– what he calls “roots music.” In keeping with that he announced the next piece, ”Hope Dies hard,” a truly magnificent and emotionally stirring masterpiece by his guitarist, Jonny “2-Bags” Wickersham. Ness spoke about the issue of painful life experiences by way of introduction to “Scars,” an emotionally-wrenching song celebrating – rather than complaining about – a hard early life. Ness’ guitar skills were on display in this performance.

Ness announced that he was 55 years old. Looking around at the audience, I could confirm that so were many of his audience. Next came “When She Begins to Rock.” He made reference to New Jersey’s Prohibition Era crime scene introducing “Machine Gun Blues.”

After a brief intermission Social D returned with four encores including “Angel Wings,” “Misery Loves Company” from his solo repertoire, and “Story of My Life.” Ness invited a bunch of kids, from 5 to 11 years on stage and conducted brief but heart-warming interviews with them, at the same time admonishing them to stick to their studies even if they had intentions to follow in his footsteps to enter the field of entertainment. He faked asking for requests for the last, closing number, but then pretended he couldn’t understand the shouted suggestions. It was a foregone conclusion that he would close with “Ring of Fire,” the Johnny Cash hit written by June Carter Cash and Merle Kilgore, as he has with all recent performances on this tour. Thus ended an hour-and-a-three-quarter show in front of a sold-out audience.

Ness mocked the idea behind Prohibition and he criticized the current social atmosphere to suppress Freedom of Speech, but when one or two members of the audience began to shout “F— Trump!” Ness found that to be off-message and embarrassing. He didn’t seem to like the response, so he dropped the topic and said we weren’t here to get into that, quickly returning to the music.

There are reasons that Social Distortion is the longest-surviving and most successful of the original late 70s punk rock bands. One is, of course, Ness’ recovery and rehabilitation from use of drugs. The second is the delightful and beloved musical style that merges rock, honky-tonk, country and punk and the thoughtful, honest, autobiographical subjects. But equally importantly, it is Ness’ intensely warm, utterly sincere and emotionally naked connection with his audience. One comes away from Social D’s shows with a feeling that you have been talked to and sung to by a close and intimate friend


Cybertron

Aug 19
Gramercy Theater NYC

Impresario Jet Berelson and his online community of Gothic-industrial culture, Vampire Freaks, hosted a spectacular edition of, “Cybertron” at the Gramercy Theater, presenting four bands, including international superstars, Stabbing Westward, followed by a club night of dance, late Saturday night into Sunday morning.

Headlining the show were industrial rockers, Stabbing Westward, continuing to celebrate their 30th anniversary as a band and their second year since reunion. The first of 3 opening bands, Blk Emoji also proved to be an eye (and ear) opening act, performing an utterly superb set of frantic, alternative rock in a style reminiscent of 90s favorites, Living Color, but with elements and flourishes that were quite uniquely their own. Departing from their outstanding set of original music, Blk Emoji applied their considerable creativity and musicianship to a trippy cover of the Donna Summer “I Feel Love,” highlighting their mastery of rhythm and powerful vocals, ending it in an orgasmic finale.


Next up, rivet-head duo Xentrifuge captivated the audience with electro-industrial, mechanized tempos, hard-edge techno and harsh, desperate vocals, demonstrating that two people with advanced technology could produce as much sound as a Civil War artillery field.
Between acts, DJs V Christ and Xris Smack kept the mood going with appropriate selections from Skinny Puppy, Ministry and NIN.

Local New York quintet, Panzie opened with a an animated video entitled “Clowns,” then took the stage and combined theatrical elements suggestive of Manson (white-face jester masks, costumes, etc.) with, ultra-conventional, hair-band-style 70s, heavy metal along the lines of AC/DC.

Stabbing Westward’s act opened with the critique of drug culture, “Drugstore” in which the question is posed, “How can everything be justified by you?” “Falls Apart” followed in which the words “whither, blister, burn and peel,” are sung, echoing the title of the 1995 album from which it comes. The third song, “So Far Away” complained about a relationship emotional distance.

“ACF” followed, then “Sometimes It Hurts,” “Lies” and “The Thing I Hate.” A kind of delicious nihilism typifies the angry anthem “Nothing” – which came next – then frustration, expressed in “What Do I Have To Do?” and anger in “Violent Mood Swings.”

Chris Hall addressed the audience in a joking fashion, mock-threatening to end the show there, but immediately the familiar synthetic introduction to mega-hit “Save Yourself” filled the air which brought much of the crowd to their feet. When it concluded, it closed out the regular, hour-long set.

After a brief intermission, the band came out for two more, the relatively mellow “Waking Up Besides You” and the raucous, hard rock anthem, “Shame.” Stabbing Westward should patent their highly effective, ultra-satisfying formula for song structure, employing just the right amounts of anger, desperation, unusual guitar voices, minor key melodies and intermittent bursts of industrial-strength sound that explodes out between intervals of tension and restrained menace.
Following the show, the club night Cybertron turned the Gramercy into a dance scene with the band remaining to hang out with the crowd and music provided by the select group of top deejays.

Recordings

FIRES
“Red Goes Grey”
Metropolis Records

This 10-track album represents a new project by Eric Sochocki whose eclectic talent is reflected in superb recording studio wizardry as well as strong vocal style and compositional mastery.

Synthetic appeggios form the basis of these SynthWave compositions and serve to both unify and at the same time diversify the work as a whole. Sochocki’s vocal styles vary from emotionless narrative to desperate to plaintive. Electronic instrumental accompaniment here is best described as compelling melody layered into rhythms of complex and hypnotic electronica that never repeats itself.

Most, but not all tracks gallop along at a brisk pace. Some intros are prolonged on a number of tracks, and on the fifth track – a dark, mesmerizing and mechanistic symphony – there are no vocals at all. The eighth track, slows down the otherwise rapidly paced tempo with trippy vocals and ethereal accompaniment. The ninth track sounds like a full, electronic symphony orchestra, and the tenth is a soft and wistful ballad.

Rather than describe each of these 10 tracks separately, it serves this review better to report that there is a consistent level of satisfying melody wedded to strata of complex and coordinated electronic beats suitable for either industrial dance or focused listening.

Rating A

Enter Shikari
“The Spark”
P.I.A.S.

This is the fifth album by these veteran British rockers fronted by vocalist Rou Reynolds who describes himself as agitated and overwrought by current world events. Indeed, Reynolds uses this record as a vehicle for leftist, progressive politics as an antidote to the “neoliberal” ideology of individualism and capitalism that has him so despondent. The bands abilities with complex, original and highly accomplished music certainly serves Reynolds well, whether he is expressing desperation or resolve.

The recording opens with an ethereal prelude featuring echoic bells and chimes, lasting 50 seconds. With the ten tracks that follow, the music becomes complex, astoundingly creative and to a great extent raucous. Rock idioms compete with choral anthems. Delicate odes accompanied by simple percussion express a depressed view of the current situation, but tumultuous choral anthems serve as a counterpoint emphasizing “light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel” optimism with defiant lyrics and operatic vocals. The Polyphonic Spree at its most elated – or perhaps Queen serve as a good comparison, but there also tracks that incorporate hip hop-like runs of British rap to articulate the exact ideas being expressed.

There’s a real lot of music going on in this album. One might even say within each of these tracks. For a band of former punk rockers it is startling to hear the well-arranged orchestral and choral elements that pervade many tracks. And on a few tracks – quiet and pensive, Reynolds sounds more like a counselor offering sympathy and encouragement to the listener as well as himself. This is not guitar-driven music, but uses the guitar when appropriate for poppy, rapidly-paced anthems like the leftist-progressive ode “Take My Country Back.” Synthetic instruments and rhythms prevail. As one goes through this album, one never knows what voice Reynolds is going to use next.
Overall this album is impressive for the complexity and originality of the arrangements, the irresistibly catchy hooks, the versatile singing and the consistency of its philosophy. Rating
Rating A

New Dark Age – August 2017

Filed under: Uncategorized — doktorjohn July 26, 2017 @ 12:13 pm

Castle Party in Bolkow Poland – A Diary

Castle Party – a festival of dark, independent music – has been held annually for the past twenty years in the well preserved ruins of Bolkow Castle in the Silesian region of Poland. The gothic structure, which sits on a 1200-foot precipice, dates back to 1277 and is still largely intact, boasting an impressive tower and monumental walls.

The adjacent courtyard, where a great outdoor stage is erected for concerts, is 7600 square meters in size, a shade smaller than an American football field.

Access to the castle is easily obtained via a steep street, that then turns up a cobblestone-paved foot path and staircase. Vendors of steampunk, vampiric and related attire and accessories line the town’s road leading up to the castle. A couple of young men in monk’s cassocks man an oven, baking a Polish version of pizza on rye bread. Beer stands and ice vendors are present along the way.

Once you have climbed to the arched entrance, your wristband for entry (270 Polish zloty= around $75 USD for all 4 days) is double-checked and you pass through the arched portal onto the castle grounds. Beer stands are everywhere. Purchase is by way of converting cash into zetony, a medium of exchange similar to poker chips. There you find rows of food stands and vendors within the walls of the castle and an abundance of exceptionally cleanly portable toilets. You can climb a stone staircase up to a higher level to view the field, the stage and an incredible panoramic vista from this altitude. Or you can step out into the field and find a comfortable location to stand or sit for the shows that begin around 4 pm each afternoon.

The town of Bolkow and its 5300 residents turn out with an abundance of hospitality to welcome the 4000+ predominantly black-attired Goths, punks and industrial freaks who attend annually. An abandoned Evangelical church inside the town serves as a second, indoor venue where each afternoon/evening is dedicated to a specific style of music, featuring series of bands who each perform 40-minute sets within the theme of the day. Thus opening night, Thursday July 13 church program was “gothic” bands. Friday July 14 was “metal” day. Saturday, “industrial,” and Sunday, “electro.” The church is surrounded by beer and food trucks, picnic table and music aficionados socializing . Again, there are more than sufficient numbers of clean, sanitary portables, so that the queue to them is mercifully short at all times.

Starting very late each night and into the following morning, the local bar and dance venue, the Hacienda, features four deejays, each with their own signature style and reputation, spinning 2-hour sets from post-punk to Italo, goth, deathrock and coldwave.

The entire town – especially the walkways leading up to the Castle – and the grounds surrounding the Former Evangelical Church – provide a pageant for the eyes as participants promenade in beautiful and bizarre outfits, make-up and costumes as they traipse between venues or stop to eat, drink and socialize. Cosmetic extremes, headdresses, wings, wigs, tattoos and apparel are on display, blending fashions that represent gothic, steampunk, sci-fi and horror as well as punk, heavy metal and New Romantic styles.

Arriving early in a rented car from the nearby major city Wroclaw (believe it or not, pronounced “Fro-swav”) on July 13, we settled into accommodations at a nearby, antiquated “palace” or mansion that was a short 10 minute commute to the town of Bolkow. Street parking within Bolkow was certainly safe and generally fairly easy to find.

Thursday

Once decked out in our everyday all-black attire, we headed to the former evangelical church where the party was opening with the Goth Night selection of bands.
The first band we caught was Lahka Muza a Slovakian quartet consisting of 3 women with big hair, high make up and fetishy, steampunk attire plus a male guitarist. Together they had a big, thunderous sound produced by richly stratified electronics. The songs were generally slow paced, layered and noisy, and featured a mournful female vocalist who spiced it up with operatic yodeling. Another played bass and the third, sexily clad, just gyrated robotically in place. The sound that was issued was something like Kate Bush-from-hell. Or a soundtrack for a horror movie.


Next up was Dividing Lines from Leipzig, an amplified female – led melodious yet intense punk quintet who served up as good a punk sound as anything you’ll hear in the 21st century.

Next was Star Industry, a really excellent old school goth-dance quintet whose original, galloping, minor key melodies were reminiscent of the Sisters of Mercy. To confirm that observation, they performed one respectable cover of the Sisters in their set as well as a cover of MGMT’s “Kids,” along with 45 minutes of their own original stuff.

Sweet Ermengarde from Germany has a Polish percussionist co-founder and followed with their dense, dark, echoic and guitar-based sound, rooted in 80s British goth, but updated electronically. “Gonzo” Vuline of Love Like Blood made a guest appearance to perform a duet as he has done in past performances with Ermengarde’s vocalist.

Live performances the first night at the church closed with USA’s Frank the Baptist who opened with a brief monologue to the effect of “Welcome to church,” by which we understood him to mean some kind of jocular reference to the venue as well as his own snarky moniker. Although there were some eerie elements to his style, by and large, the prominent vocals, the bass and the relentless beat took us back to the earliest days of hard rock. In fact, our suspicions that Frank the Baptist was reviving the Rolling Stones were confirmed when he and his band covered the Stones’ “Black.” Worthy music, but hardly gothic, unless one allows for the possibility that dark elements in the Rolling Stones’ 1960s oeuvre were setting the stage for the later emergence of what was to become Gothrock in the 70s and 80s.

At the close of the set, deejays took over the church and we returned for the night back to the mansion where we were staying. The castle had not opened yet.

Friday

Friday was “Metal” night at the church. Death metal, black metal and mythological occult metal were represented. In Twilight’s Embrace, Shodan, Ulcer and Beheaded each brought their version of death metal to the stage.

The last of these, Beheaded from Malta gave what was described by one astute metal head whom I consulted as “a powerful and convincing performance.” Their long-haired and charismatic vocalist Frank Calleja growled ferociously and with utter sincerity for several songs from this year’s newest release. The drummer mimicked the cadence of repeated machine-gun bursts. Band members swung their long tresses like windmills. The band’s name appeared in classic metal font on the backdrop of the stage as the crowd – at first sparse – came to fill the hall.

DIORAMA at the Castle

Half a dozen acts had already gone on and off stage by the time we showed up at the big outdoor stage of the castle to see Diorama, a German electro-gothic trio, whose unfortunate dependence on technology nearly sabotaged their act. Nobody sounded better than Diorama with their guitar-driven, melodious style but then some kind of audio incompatibility cut short their set, which had started off tantalizingly good with a hypnotic rhythm and dark melody, but collapsed electronically. The band and tech support struggled mightily for nearly half an hour, and when the problem was solved. Diorama came back on stage, and their performance was positively masterful, characterized by delicious melodies, rich, melancholy vocals and mesmerizing rhythms. I would liken them favorably to Covenant with a harder edge.


ARKONA on the big Castle Stage

The night’s program was more than redeemed by the next group up: Arkona, a Russian folk-metal quintet with a statuesque female lead vocalist, clad in leather pants, peasant boots and a blouse redundant with long fringes, who could go from singing to yodeling to roaring like a bear, at times sounding like a man twice her size, electric guitarists, bagpipes and flute. At one amazing point this vocalist sang, full-throated with the delivery of a Russian operatic contralto, acappella accompanied only to the beat of a native drum. The term speed metal comes to mind, blended – then alternated, seamlessly – with Eurasian traditional folk. The sheer power and pathos of Arkona’s performance captured both the melancholy and the defiance of the Russian people whose music expresses their endurance and their survival against the forces of authoritarianism and nature’s elements over the centuries. A semi-punk, semi-folk-dance mosh pit churned energetically throughout their performance.

Diary of Dreams

Topping the night off was German electronic darkwave quartet, Diary of Dreams, whose captivating minor key melodies, angry, morbid lyrics, sung mainly in English were accompanied by a heavy, ominous, musical tsunami including a synthetic chorus. Such is the state of modern music that much of the time, the Instrumentalists seemed to hardly touch their instruments and yet a wall of complex and layered music continued pouring from the speakers. They reminded me of a delightful but more morose, more desperate version of Wolfsheim.

Saturday

Saturday at the church was “industrial” night, and I won’t soon forgive myself for missing the eerie audio-visual works of Czech musician Vladimir Hirsch, of America’s Schloss Tegal and of Rapoon from the U.K. These artists stretched the boundaries of how we define music with non-rhythmic soundscapes of industrial and ambient noise, unconventional and sometimes incomprehensible note sequences issued by electronic instruments, samples of choral chants and indescribable sources. Although none of this fits the definition of what most mean when they say “industrial,” these sets served to enlighten and broaden the musical taste of those with a willing and open mind.

ROME

Fortunately, I was astounded and pleased to have arrived in time to witness the intense freakfolk violin plucking and strumming of Sieben from Sweden and the stunning musicianship of neo-folk artist Rome from Luxembourg. This singer-songwriter soloist accompanied himself on guitar, and was joined later in the performance by a couple of other musicians. With his magnificent, Leonard Cohen-esque baritone voice, intense, confident delivery and brilliant arrangements he stood out as perhaps the most talented and accomplished musician – in the traditional sense – at the festival. His album “Hyperion” can be accessed on YouTube and I guarantee you it will prove an unexpected and wondrous delight.

Suicide Commando

Back at the Castle, electro-industrial duo A Split Second set the crowd to frenzied rocking with guitar driven, rapidly cadenced music and accompanying vocals. The show of course was stolen by Belgian group Suicide Commando whose harsh themes, nasty lyrics (“Die, die, die!”) and techno-industrial sound have earned it a prestigious place in every festival of this kind of music.
Neuoberschlesien fireworks

They were followed by Neuoberschlesien, a hard, heavy metal group, clearly influenced by Rammstein both in sound and stage production, who lit up the scene with bursts of flames as part of the act, and who worked in some patriotic Silesian anthems between head-banger tracks. Neuoberschlesian in German means New Upper Silesian, referring to the culturally distinct, historically Prussian province of Poland with its own dialect that to this day harbors ambitions to be autonomous.

The night ended with My Dying Bride, a doom metal band with an ominous, foghorn-like intro, slow paced and plaintive synthetic strings and choir samples issuing mournful chants. But I found their music to be without logic, toon slow for my attention span, with sudden and irrational shifts of tempo and musical notes played in a sequence lacking any recognizable melody.

The Hacienda

This venerable upstairs bar and downstairs dance floor is situated a short walk from the castle and becomes crowded – very crowded – when the shows at the castle and church let out. Castle Party wristbands are required to gain entrance. Smoking – an atavistic vice, still nearly universal in Poland – is only allowed in a small, outdoor pen. While it might have been possible to find your way to the bar, and it might have been possible to gyrate rhythmically in place in the densely packed dance floor downstairs, it proved too crowded for us to take part in either drinking or dancing. All you could do, really, was smoke.

Sunday

Up at the Castle, Polish grunge rockers K-Essence performed such highly perfected Seattle-style nostalgic rock from their album “We Prefer the Night,” that I was surprised that they weren’t wearing flannel. It was done so incredibly well that it happily transported the small audience (I counted 60 spectators) to the golden age of 90s alternative rock. But it wasn’t the kind of music that most at the festival had come to hear, so we headed down to the church where Black Tower from Poland was doing a set that would have made Wumpscut proud, and it had the effect of charging the crowd up to a near frenzy of industrial ecstasy. Next, Frank Croona from Sweden was definitely no crooner, but rather a raspy-voiced aggro-industrialist, delivering his harsh vocals to dance-trance rhythms.

H. EXE at the Former Evangelical Church

The church proved to be the place to be that night, as H. Exe from Poland merged the growling vocal style of black metal with techno-industrial accompaniment, and the audience, set in motion by Black Tower continued to pulsate rhythmically and excitedly. So well received was H. Exe, that the audience demanded them back for several encores after their regular set had concluded. Finally German electro-industrial duo, In Strict Confidence closed out the church show with deep, hoarse vocals layered over a melodious and thunderous cadence while video-projected flames licked the stage and the backdrop.

So it was back to the castle for headliners and concluding act, Tiamat, but before they came on, we had to stare in wonder at the less-than-entertaining French outfit Vive La Fete performing the annoyingly kitschy “Popcorn” theme that dates back to the early days -1969- of the moog synthesizer. The show was not redeemed by a lanky blond cavorting in black tights, whose goofy grimacing and overly sexy posturing served only to highlight their curiously boring music. The question inevitably arises: What is Vive La Fete doing at Castle Party of dark independent music? And what, especially, were they doing on the playbill on closing night, just before the headliners?

Finally headliners Tiamat, officially from Sweden, took the stage amidst much anticipation. Tiamat takes its unusual name from the Babylonian goddess of the Chaos of Primordial Creation. Lead vocalist Johan Edlund came out wearing an army uniform complete with a Polish army World War II helmet. One could sense that there were going to be predictable denunciations of war as is the stereotypical custom at alternative music events these days. Why do these performers think they are bearers political enlightenment? Do they really think that their audiences need to be preached at regarding the how objectionable is the institution of war? Or do they think that they are the special messengers of this wisdom?

Well in any event, after announcing somewhat pretentiously that they were “from Sweden, from Spain, from Canada, the U.S., whatever,” Edlung scornfully discarded, first, the helmet, then parts of the uniform into the audience to let us know what may have news 50 or 100 years ago, namely that rock musicians don’t like war. I would have counseled him to have more respect for a symbol of Poland’s valiant resistance in World War II. The good thing was that as he removed articles of army uniform he at least picked up a guitar and played along. Song after song seemed to drag at a funeral pace as if each needed time to sink in. The music did pick up energy toward the end of the set, and overall the performance was good. Let’s face it. Theirs is good material. But we were of the opinion that one’s appreciation of Tiamat would have been better served by going to Spotify and listening to any one of their albums from the past.

Thus ended a joyful and unique 4 day experience for those from the gothic, punk and industrial music world. In all respects Castle Party 2017 met and exceeded every expectation of fun, great entertainment, feasting, freedom and, even, enlightenment.

What is there that is special about Castle Party? Virtually everything! Set in a small Eastern European town imbued with history and with Slavic hospitality, it brings together a virtual cornucopia of post-punk music from traditional gothic, punk and industrial to techno, experimental, acoustic and electronic. Some might consider Castle Party to be somewhat indiscriminate, but who can say what the boundaries are between styles and tastes? Castle Party is more about breaking down barriers than establishing them.

In the same sense, it brings together a rich ethnic mix of performers and attendees from both East and West, in an environment that promotes transcontinental friendship and acceptance. Political, nationalistic and historical ideologies dissolve, or rather evaporate in the thin, clean air of the Carpathian Mountains. Music fans and lovers of dark aesthetic and philosophical themes meet in an environment of quintessential camaraderie that scorns the petty issues and jealousies of the mainstream societies from which they have dropped out – some for a few days, others for life.

United by the bonds of post-punk culture and the near universal fluency in English, Castle Party creates an environment that is both universal and intimate. Dressing up and showing off in punk, gothic, or steampunk outfits, head banging the night away, dancing in friendly mosh pits, the participants in Castle Party defy the outside world’s manufactured and irredeemable preoccupations with status, religion and ethnicity while celebrating their shared nonconforming attitudes.

Memento Mori


July 27, 2017

The New Dark Age crew visited Memento Mori, the dance club and socializing event held monthly on Thursdays at Bedlam Bar in Manhattan’s Alphabet City. Greeting us was hospitality hostess, Ana Vice, deejay and queen bee of the dark social scene and one of the originators of this club event. Equally hospitable DJ Bela Lugosi Alex approached us and was eager to hear about and view photos from our recent adventures at music festivals in Eastern Europe.

Up in the deejay booth were Mike Stalagmike, noted impresario of Defcon, and caliginous presence, Valefar Malefic arrayed like a vampirish maestro of deathrock.

The bar area has spectacular décor which includes taxidermy elements, game-trophy heads mounted high on the wall, specimens of god-knows-what in jars, anatomical models and charts, plus a well-stocked bar and an efficient bartender. The dance floor is grotesquely festooned with a dense array of tattered fabrics hung from the ceiling. There’s also a dimly lit lounge in back.

The cast of attendees tends to represent the select population of beautiful creatures from the City’s urban underground. Other notables of the scene included Mark Cage Knight who held court with his companions in the comfortable lounge in the back room behind the dance floor. Comfortably ensconced in booths in the bar area were Joe Hart, similarly surrounded by beautiful creatures of the night; scene regulars, Jennifer Bobbe, keyboardist for Night Gallery and Alain Leriche accompanied by the statuesque Nicole Eres.

Emanating from the sound system were such delightful rarities as “A Little Death to Laugh” by Cold Cave and “Lion King” by Ghosting. This is music you won’t hear at the average goth-industrial dance club. Getting out on a Thursday night, which is the only night of the week on which Memento Mori is held, is well worth it to those who wish to delve deeper into the New York demimonde and its dark music scene.

Ward 6


Ward 6

The “Depeche Mode Edition” of Ward 6 was held at Windfall Saturday night July 29 and treated as an after party to the Depeche Mode cruise along the Hudson River which ended at around midnight the same night. Reduced admission was granted to those bearing tickets from the cruise.

DJs Jeff Ward and Patrick Cusack took turns at the deejay booth, spinning post-punk with a heavy reliance and frequent returns to the Depeche Mode repertoire.
After being greeted by host Chris Savo, we hit the dance floor to the sound of The Cure’s “Fascination Street.” Wolfsheim, the Eurythmics and even Cabaret Voltaire were part of the mix.
Shortly before 1 a.m. “The Fly in the Windscreen” by Depeche Mode hit the air and what followed was basically an alternating set with Depeche Mode songs between such other appropriate favorites as Kate Bush, et al.

DJ Ash made an appearance following his assigned duties on the cruise. Other notables of the scene were William Welles, DJ Arsenal and Joe Hart, the latter two accompanied by their lovely better halves.

Kaplica Czaszek

While in south western Poland for Castle Party we took a 2-hour car journey to this chapel in Czermna near the Czech border where a famous chapel houses catacomb containing the skeletal remains of around 24,000 deceased, of which about 3,000 are on actual display forming the walls and ceiling of the chapel itself. Between 1776 and 1804, it was furnished by a local priest, influenced by the famous catacombs of Rome, with the skulls and leg bones of victims of the Thirty Years War, various plagues and famines.


Fr. Tomaszek
exhumed and cleaned these skeletal parts from mass graves and arranged them in this once-active church in order to restore their dignity and significance, and put them on display in the tradition of a memento mori, i.e. a reminder of mortality. He placed skulls with curious features such as bullet holes, the effects of syphilis and giantism right on the altar for viewing. Eventually, his own skull was placed there as well. Recently added celebrity skulls are those of persecuted priests martyred by the Nazis during WW II and, later, by the Communist agents of the Soviet Union.

There is a small memorial to the 96 members of the Polish contingent whose plane crashed under suspicious circumstances in Smolensk in 2010. It will be recalled that they were en route to meet with Mr. Putin to commemorate the 1940 mass execution of the 22,000 Polish officer corps by the Soviet NKVD at the Katyn Forest. Because of this fatal plane crash, Mr. Putin was thereby conveniently spared from the embarrassment that such a meeting might have caused.

There are numerous ossuaries around the world where for various cultural and/or religious reasons, the bones of the dead are put on display. Most are maintained below street level, in basements or tunnels as in Rome or Paris, and these are termed catacombs. Kaplica Czaszek is among those few that house the remains in structures above ground. It is now more a tourist attraction than an active church, but midnight mass is celebrated once a year on August 14, the Feast of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary.

Brief tours are chaperoned by nuns and scheduled on a regular, basis through the day. Photography is prohibited.

July 2017 New Dark Age

Filed under: Events,Goth Stuff,live music,New Dark Age Monthly,Uncategorized — doktorjohn July 21, 2017 @ 9:41 pm

Cybertron

Blackthorn 51
Elmhurst, Queens NYC
June 24, 2017

Vampire Freaks, the large entertainment and specialty clothing organization regularly sponsors music events with a dark, futuristic theme, labeling such events Cybertron, connected—as it portrays itself—to the concept of the sci-fi oriented Transformers theme. Release of the motion picture “Transformers—The Last Knight,” served as an inspiration for the latest Cybertron, a night of dance music and live performances by three techno-industrial bands.

Doors opened at 9 p.m. at Blackthorn 51, a bar and performance venue that usually features heavy metal, situated deep in the heart of the borough of Queens. Our crew from New Dark Age was the first to enter, and we took note of the selections being aired by the assigned deejay—mainly electronic, goth and industrial, featuring Aesthetic Perfection, NIN, Manson and IAMX.

As the guests showed up, they presented an array of dark, sexy and elaborately attired fashionistas, predominantly black-clad, sporting leather, vinyl, metal spikes, two-toned stripes and high makeup. This was particularly true of the several dancers who had been engaged to entertain between band acts. Much focus was directed at one tall, statuesque beauty in a red wig who beguiled the crowd from her lofty place on stage. The room stood in awe when the gorgeous Ashley Bad made her grand entrance accompanied by famous impresario, DJ Xris Smack, who was eager to promote upcoming Stimulate events.

Several other celebrity deejays were present to spin dance tracks including Vampire Freaks’ own Jet VF himself, Matt V Christ, Annabelle Evil, and Shadownightz.

Deathmaschine

First up at 10 p.m. was the nasty, punk/industrial trio, DeathMaschine, that put on a powerful performance, with a ruggedly handsome vocalist, hovering over the crowd, naked from the waist up but for wrap-around shades and a leather, suspenders-like harness. He was accompanied by digital rhythm tracks, keyboards and by guitarists, one of whom served to also shower the stage with sparks off a metal grinder. The pounding beats and menacing, defiantly screamed lyrics were not for the faint-of-heart.

Xentrifuge

Next up at 11 p.m. came NJ-based, but internationally acclaimed harsh industrial duo, Xentrifuge, a rivethead-styled couple whose high-tech appearance is in accord with their robust aggro-tech sound. We were familiar with them because they had been selected as Fan Favorite at the recent Darkside of the Con this past spring. Severe and intensely colored lighting glared through an intermittently thick cloud to reveal the stunningly attractive pair. Black leather-clad and sporting shaved sides, Chris Xentrifuge took center stage to issue hissing, nihilistic vocals backed by his gorgeous better half Lisa Helen, who stood behind playing a keyboard and regulating the complex synthetic accompaniment consisting of catchy, mantra-like, repetitive melodies woven into hypnotic, mechanistic rhythms. Their set consisted of seven songs with titles like “Cerebral Ruins” and “Machine Winter,” which go a long way toward characterizing the motif of their style. They are perfectly suited for their next gig which will be to open for Stabbing Westward at the Gramercy this August.

Velvet Acid Christ

Finally, at midnight, headliners, Colorado-based techno-industrial trio, Velvet Acid Christ, came on stage. They performed for at least an hour and a half, touching on most of their popular repertoire of EBM, darkwave and techno while projecting videos on a backdrop screen showing everything from kaleidoscopic, geometric animations to cartoon images with sociopolitical messages. They dedicated one song to Fox News, although it was difficult to parse the lyrics. One can assume it was critical of the Right that Fox represents, since this is the take on politics that has become almost a cliché in the alternative music scene these days. The beautiful female vocalist who remains nameless on the website and VAC’s Facebook page, sang a song in German about “being a loser.”

Although one could detect a certain sameness to much of their signature sound, VAC’s total repertoire is quite large, standing at 10 or so albums under the Metropolis label, and includes a fair enough variety with captivating melodies and cadences to make for a great body of work suited for goth/industrial dance.

Rammstein

Northwell Health At Jones Beach Theater
Wantagh, NY
June 25, 2017

It is indeed a challenge and all-day commitment to trek out to Jones Beach given the unavoidable disaster that is traffic encountered when crossing from NJ to the outer reaches of Queens, NY. The stature of this industrial metal giant, however, compelled us to make the pilgrimage, knowing the band’s reputation for spectacular visuals to accompany their thrilling and spectacular musical performance.

The show commenced when giant numbers were projected onto a dark screen that shrouded the stage. The audience participated in a countdown beginning from “8” and ending with “1” and the Rammstein logo. With that, the recognizable, syncopated beat of “Ramm 4” burst from the suddenly illuminated stage, and at the same moment there was the explosion of multiple Roman candles into the sky over the heads of even those in the loftiest stadium seats at this open-air theater.

Next came the slow paced, guitar-driven “Reise Reise,” “Halleluja” in which the band accompanies with a falsetto chorus, then the rapidly paced “Zerstören (Destroy).” “Keine Lust (No Desire),” another heavily syncopated song, followed. Next was “Feuer Frei,” a galloping piece with lyrics that play on the two meanings of the word “Feuer” (fire) to denote both the heat of fire—of which there was plenty on and around the stage—and the verb “fire” meaning to shoot a gun. Eight more songs followed, including the hugely popular “Du Riechst So Gut (You Smell So Good),” “Links 2-3-4,” “Du Hast” and the uniquely stylized cover of the Depeche Mode classic, “Stripped.”

It was impossible to keep track of the many and mind-blowing visuals which included flames and smoke belching from the stage ceiling and floor, explosions issuing from two tall towers that straddled the ground level audience seating, clouds of sparkles and confetti, instrumentalists lifted aloft by stage devices, guitars and personnel that distributed smoke, flames and mighty explosions, and rockets that flew across the crowd to ignite blazes on the two aforementioned towers.

A brief intermission was held after “Stripped,” and then they returned with “Sonne (The Sun),” then the rather tedious, yet well recognized “Amerika,” and the harsh and cynical “Engel (Angel).” For the second time, the band members took their bows and the sad strains of “Ohne Dich (Without You)” closed the show.

Seated up high in the outer and upper tier of this gargantuan, 15,000-seat theater gave us a great vantage point from which to view the overall spectacle, but deprived us of being able to appreciate the fine details of the various costumes and theatrical personae of the performers on the distant stage. Two large “Jumbotron”-type screens that should have shown video projections of the stage performers sat dark and unused. This failure to accommodate the ten or so thousand spectators in faraway seats of this gargantuan theater was, in my opinion, inexcusable. At all recent outdoor concerts I have attended recently, excellent use of the jumbo screens allowed the entire audience to enjoy the visual details of the stage performance, which was in Rammstein’s case extremely essential to appreciation of the special effects and costumes.

One more pet peeve: Why, in a vast audience of attentive and devoted fans—who have paid good money and suffered through the inconveniences of travel—do a handful of inconsiderate and hyperactive morons find it necessary to remain standing throughout the performance, essentially ruining the experience for those seated directly in back of them?!

The Red Party

Mercury Lounge
Manhattan, NY
July 8, 2017

Saturday, July 8, saw a spectacular recurrence of the iconic dance, social and entertainment event Sean templar’s Red Party. Once again it was held at the Mercury Lounge on East Houston St., itself a kind of monument to the punk music scene in the greater NY/NJ region.

Speaking of punk, the live performance this night was provided by Argyle Goolsby and the Roving Midnight, an energetic and energizing punk group just back from an overwhelmingly successful stint at the worldwide Wave Gotik Treffen festival in Leipzig, Germany. Coming on shortly after midnight, Argyle Goolsby proved their credentials not only in the old school punk category, but suffused the music with an element of horror. Front man Steve Matthews, in white contacts that emphasized the deep, dark circles surrounding his ghastly eyes and sporting a variety of shocking masks, cavorted on stage with a variety of props and an amazing facility for levitating himself to upstage heights.

Argyle Goolsby

Besides terrifying the delighted crowd with such pogo-punk pieces as “The Brides,” “Spiders and Flies” and “The Uninvited,” this guitar-driven sextet showed themselves capable of changing the pace and performing a pleasant, but dark-themed ballad or two.

Queen bee of the social scene, Mandana Banshie, greeted guests as they arrived. At the merch stand was Rusted Autumn hawking one-of-a-kind jewelry and, of course, Argyle Goolsby’s latest CD, shirts, posters and the like. Host and impresario Sean Templar was present in force, spreading hospitality and warm welcome to old friends and newcomers alike. Ana Vice, famous for her role bringing the notorious Memento Mori night to the city for the past year and a half, was first up at the deejay board, providing a mix of irresistible death rock, goth rock and esoteric post-punk that kept the dance floor active. Sean and Jarek later took turns at the turntable.

Eye-candy was provided by a crowd of extravagantly gorgeous creatures of the night as documented in the nearby photos, and included such models of festive gloomy style as DJ Alex (Bela Lugosi) Zamora, Valefar Malefic and Luna Pallida. Special guest Myke Hideous, famous for his ’90s goth-metal project The Empire Hideous, was present accompanied by his beautiful fiancée, Kyly, and both enjoyed renewing acquaintances whom they rarely get to see, having relocated outside the metropolitan area.

Mummies
The Museum Of Natural History

The most fascinating exhibition at New York’s Museum of Natural History is on mummies. Although mummification has been practiced in many and diverse parts of the world, and although mummification sometimes takes place naturally because of climate conditions, the focus here is on the highly developed methods of mummification involved in burial rites by two distinct civilizations: the Egyptian and the Peruvian.

It goes without saying that man has struggled mightily and pretty much in vain in his effort to deny the finality of death. In the case of these two cultures, whole technologies developed to create the illusion that the human form could be pretty much preserved and supplied with provisions after death. The Egypt and Peruvian practices of mummification were somewhat different, but both date back many thousands of years. Peruvian mummies dating back 7,000 years have been discovered, and the Egyptian practice began over 5,000 years ago.

Using today’s technology, particularly CAT scanning, scientists have been able to uncover much of the condition of the deceased, without disturbing the fragile and delicate condition of the bodies within adhesive, resin-caked linen wrappings. In many cases, the state of health, diet, lifestyle and family social structure has been pieced together by visually stripping away layer by layer with CAT scans, from the artistically painted wooden coffins, down through the layers of wrapping, then the skin, the bones and the remaining internal organs.

We learned that the brain and visceral organs were removed as part of the mummification process; the latter being preserved in sculpted ceramic jars. The brain was discarded as insignificant in the afterlife. Arthritis, tuberculosis, childbirth and childhood mortality were common. Bone and dental health were often poor. The teeth of Egyptians appeared to have been worn away by the sandy grit left over from grindstones that were used to mill flour into their bread.

Despite these sobering observations, what most stands out is their knowledge of anatomy, their refined dissection and chemical preservation methods, their masterful artistry in the handling and decoration of the bodies and coffins as well as the magnificent stone sarcophaguses in which the coffins were encased.

The Chinchorro of Peru and Chile started mummification thousands of years before the Egyptians. They painted their mummies and encased the head in clay, fashioning clay masks representing the dead person in an acceptable appearance. Few of these fragile masks are intact, but reproductions are on display at the museum. Some people kept mummies of deceased family members in their homes and brought them to festivals.

The Cult Of Victorian Mourning

Green-Wood Cemetery
Brooklyn, NY
June 10, 2017

The much acclaimed and sorely missed, now-defunct Morbid Anatomy Museum, lives on in spirit if not in its real life, brick-and-mortar existence. Leading figures from the former museum, including curator-author Joanna Ebenstein, antiquarian scholar and museum co-founder Evan Michelson, art historian and former museum librarian Laetitia Barbier and lecturer-teachers Stanley Burns M.D. and Karen Bachmann joined with others of like interests to present a program on the topic of rituals surrounding mourning in the Victorian era under the auspices of Green-Wood Cemetery’s events program. The program echoed the very first exhibition, “The Art of Mourning,” held in 2014 at the opening of at the Morbid Anatomy Museum.

Dating back to 1838 and designated a National Historic Landmark, Green-Wood is a treasure trove of magnificent monuments, mausoleums, markers and graves of the famous in a rural setting of surpassing beauty of landscape and architecture. It welcomes visitors and offers self-guided walking tours.

Laetitia Barbier giving opening remarks


The Chapel at Green-Wood

The symposium was held in the Chapel, a magnificent example of flamboyant Gothic style. Opening remarks were by art historian and author Laetitia Barbier, Harry Weil, Manager of Programs at Green-Wood and creative director of the museum, Joanna Ebenstein who welcomed the sold-out audience and set the tone for what was to follow. Evan Michelson and Karen Bachman, Professor in Jewelry Design at Fashion Institute, exhibited and spoke on the peculiar practice of weaving commemorative jewelry from samples of hair of the deceased.

Jessica Glassock of the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art presented the historic and highly specific attire worn during a widow’s period of mourning in the era from 1815-1915 in a slide show.

There was a casual interview with author and archivist Stanley Burns M.D., who talked about his lifetime of collecting historic photographs, including post-mortem photos and other topics from his 46 books and 1,100 articles written on related medical, military and cultural topics.

The most moving part was the aloud reading of letters of condolence from the Victorian era, and included poignant and eloquent examples from Abe Lincoln, Lord Tennyson, Charles Dickens and others.

Readers with interests in gothic and morbid preoccupations are advised to visit Green-Wood Cemetery and to follow the Morbid Anatomy blogspot for future events.

June 2017 New Dark Age

Filed under: Events,Goth Stuff,Uncategorized — doktorjohn June 9, 2017 @ 7:18 pm

Svmmon at Talon Bar

Brooklyn
A new dance night, Svmmon, self-described as a “decadent, dark experience” opened at the downstairs space of the Talon Bar in Brooklyn’s Bushwick section on Friday May 12. And, no, it is not misspelled. Host deejays Joe Hart, Andi Harriman and Hi-Fi Hillary filled the air with new and classic goth, darkwave deathrock dance music. Heard during the night were such prime movers as “Poison Door” by Sisters of Mercy, “Stranger” by Clan of Xymox and “The Calling” by Death in June. A rather repetitive video loop showed silently on a brick wall in the passageway between the bar and dance floor. The bar was well stocked and the friendly barista a most adept and accommodating mixologist. There was seating along the walls for those who needed a rest from hoofing it.

An early highlight and photo-op occurred when gorgeous ecdysiast Casandra Rosebeetle took to the dance floor in black, fetish-inspired attire and – to musical accompaniment – removed her garments right down to and past an attractive lingerie outfit and beyond.null

Facebook counted around 62 attendees. There appeared to me at least that many. It suffices to say that the place was packed to capacity with enthusiastic and black-clad dancers and imbibers.

For an opening night event, Svmmon appears to have set some king of attendance record for a small, downstairs venue, portending a very serious revival of the Goth scene in the greater NYC area.

Tribute Night at Maxwell’s

Hoboken

SIN
Battle of Los Angeles
Schism
June 2, 2017

There aren’t many ways to better spend a musical evening than taking in the performances of 3 superbly accomplished bands as they pay tribute to 3 of the best bands of the 90s. So, for the third time in as many months we headed to the venue where SIN, the region’s top Nine Inch nails tribute band opened the night .

SIN onstage at Maxwell’s

Lead guitarist Keith Williams, mastermind behind Tool tribute headliners, opened SIN’s set with a virtuosos rendition of the short , menacing riff known as “Pinion” from the “Broken” album. Lead vocalist Byron Huares then led the group on an 8-song set, starting with “Terrible Lie” and then “Head Like A Hole,” the monumental piece that lays at the roots of the whole electronic-industrial craze of the 90s.

At one point, a semi-transparent screen went up between the stage and the audience, on to which elaborate animate graphics were projected. When the screen came down, Byron was stripped to the waist except for leather forearm gauntlets and a blindfold-mask of black tape.

Proceeding through the NIN time sequence, SIN next executed faithful selections from “Downward Spiral,” “The Fragile” and “With Teeth,” then returned to “Downward Spiral“ with “Closer,” remembered for its shocking phrase that ends with “…like an animal,” and which changed forever the acceptance of the “f-word” in the world of popular music. Their set concluded with “Burn” from the movie soundtrack of “Natural Born Killers” and “Wish” from the debut EP “Broken.”

Besides keeping faithful to the strenuous vocal demands on the NIN oeuvre, Byron threw himself enthusiastically into the physicality of the style, capturing Trent Reznor’s early, acrobatic stage style.

Speaking of physicality, nothing could top Battle of Los Angeles’s lead vocalist, Christian Alcantara who performed the stunts of leaping and hopping while also capturing the cadence and timbre of Rage Against the Machine’s Zack de la Rocha’s defiant rap.

Christian Alcantara airborne – Battle of Los Angeles at Maxwell’s

The tribute set list, dubbed “The Battle of Hoboken,” consisted of 9 songs, all familiar to fans of RATM, starting with “Bombtrack” and “People of the Sun.” Alcantara’s angry vocals and wildly animated stage ballet was set against a backdrop of grainy black & white and color videos displaying politicians mouthing platitudes, street demonstrations, military displays, and riots. Favorites like “Bullet in the Head” and “Bulls on Parade” kept the crowd in constant motion, although fortunately a mosh-pit never emerged in the relatively tight confines of Maxwell’s back-room performance space. The set concluded with a ferocious performance of RATM’s signature piece, “Killing in the Name.”

The final act, Schism, masters of Tool’s music, has been reviewed in glowing terms previously in these pages. What more can be said about what is surely one of the most accomplished cover bands ever to take the stage, covering what is one of the most impressive musical projects of all rock history? Superb vocalist Angelo Rivera is supported by left-handed guitarist and band mastermind Keith Williams and his virtuoso team of Sean Murray on bass and Don Pusateri on drums. Touring since 2001, and now increasingly in demand nationwide, Schism is acknowledged by Tool itself as the best purveyors of their original sound.

Tool tribute band Schism at Maxwell’s

Their set that night covered a broad swathe of Tool’s oeuvre, delving deep into the formidable complexity of Tool’s works with such favorites as “Sober,” “46 & 2,” and “Prison Sex.” Schism is so well versed in Tool’s body of work that, as at previous shows, they called to the audience for requests of any and all songs by the band, easily satisfying all requests and leaving nothing is off limits.

The audience, as on each prior performance of Schism which I have witnessed, was stunned and awed by the sheer mastery and delicious re-creation of Tool’s revered repertoire of hits. Energized, yet transfixed by the music the crowd rocked rhythmically in place, many mouthing the lyrics that were long-ago committed to memory.

Ward 6 at Windfall

Manhattan

May 27, 2017

On the Saturday of the Memorial Day weekend, DJ Fr Jeff Ward held yet another occurrence of the long-standing, revered dance night featuring “new wave/ dark dance/ goth/ synth and industrial” as he likes to describe it.

Ward 6 dance floor at Windfall

In addition to his usual hospitality-related duties, Chris Savo was observed installing sound insulation to contain the music within the confines of Windfall’s fancy bar and dance floor. As usual, the friendly and capable bartenders Gerard and Julia kept imbibers happy, and a sizable crowd danced the night away in defiance of tradition of leaving town on the Memorial Day weekend. And as usual, dancers were motivated to enjoy the dance floor early on with such irresistible masterpieces as “Love Come Quickly” by Pet Shop Boys, “Where Greed Talks” by Wolfsheim and “The Silence” by The Rope; and later on by “Military Fashion” by And One, “Kick in the Eye” by Bauhaus and “An Eye for the Main Chance” by Rosetta Stone.

DJ Jeff Ward presiding at Ward 6

BODYLAB at Le Poisson Rouge
Manhattan
June 1

Deejays at Bodylab at Le Poisson Rouge

BODYLAB, standard bearer of Old-School EBM/Industrial returned to LPR where it got it’s start. A growing following of NYC Industrialists attended. The night featured DJs EISDRIVER (Qxt’s, Assimilate) and STRYKK9 from Philly (DeMolition, Spellbound) laying down the heavy EBM beats that kept the dance floor moving. This night was a special tribute to the Industrial act SPAHN RANCH and featured an all SPAHN RANCH guest dj set by the band’s vocalist Athan Maroulis.

Athan Maroulis of Spahn Ranch at Bodylab


Human Music

May 27 & 28, 2017

Human Music

QXT’s in Newark hosted an extraordinary 2-day festival focused on the revived popularity of what is termed “synthwave,” the retro futuristic style of techno-wave that adapts newer technology to 80s darkwave synthesizer-based music. This may in fact have been an unprecedented gathering of no less than twenty bands representative of the genre plus 8 deejays steeped in the style, supported by sound, lighting and video specialists with the same aesthetic sensibilities.

Tickets were priced at from $40 – $50 single-day/ $70 – $80 for both days depending on how far in advance; and $60 single-day/$100 at the door.

New Dark Age didn’t attend, but reports from those who did termed it a unique experience and spectacular success.

A listing of bands the first night included Magic Sword, mysterious group whose songs are featuring in video games; Betamaxx, famous for the “Kung Fury” movie sound track; Dead Astronauts in their only USA performance, Trey Frey from Philadelphia; The Rain Within from Charlottesville, VA; Boaconstrictor; and Protector 101 out of Ventura CA.

Davey Partain of AEON Rings at Human Music Festival

The second, full, day-into-night event started off with Dance with the Dead in their first east Coast appearance; Gost; Bit Shifter from NYC; Night Club (L.A.); Teeel from Trenton NJ; Street Fever (L.A.); Defiant Systems; Arcade High (Pittsburgh); STRNGR; Skeleton Hands (Cincinnati OH), AEON Rings (Brooklyn); Hunterquinn (Cincinnati); AndaruGO (Cincinnati) and The Encounter (NY).

Governor’s Ball

Randall’s Island NY

June 2,3 & 4 2017

Governor’s Ball, held over 3 consecutive days and night in New York’s Randall’s Island Park was jus too large a commitment in time and money for New Dark Age to fully attend, but the lure of Tool as headline band on closing night, Sunday, was irresistible. So our crew set out late Sunday afternoon, enduring unbearable traffic jams to reach the ferry slip where we boarded one craft in a steadily running shuttle service that ran from Manhattan’s East River shore to the park on Randall’s Island.

Ferry slip at entrance to Governors Ball on Randall’s Island

Disembarking there, then traveling on foot, we hit each of the four active stages, mingled with countless throngs of young – very young – attendees, and grabbed beers and snacks at various stands set up for the occasion.

Prohibited items at Governors Ball

Cage the Elephant from Tennessee held a vast crowd enthralled amidst whom was a smattering of skilled, self-entertaining hula-hoopers. Across the island, Phantogram, natives of Saratoga Springs, NY captivated the audience with a fine repertoire of hits and with the dazzling statuesque beauty of vocalist Sarah Barthel.

What we came for was, of course Tool. A fervid crowd had begun packing the area around the stage before 8:30. They were scheduled to appear on the main stage at 9:15 P.M. Tool made its grandiose appearance, opening with “The Grudge.” This was followed by “Parabola,” an extended version of “Schism” and a new version of “Opiate.”

Twelve songs made up the set list, each in a terrifyingly bombastic, yet deliciously accessible signature style; plus there was a spectacular but nameless, extended drum solo that utterly mesmerized the crowd.

The giant screens flashed images from Alex Grey’s hallucinatory art, Adam Jones’ creepy stop-motion music videos, psychedelic imagery and more. The late drug advocate Timothy Leary’s gigantic and distorted face, floated, dream-like and rendered a monologue that is standard fare at Tool events, promoting the philosophy of “Think for yourself.” The mysterious, spidery silhouette of Tool mastermind, Maynard James Keenan, darkly costumed in some kind of robotic armor, remained inconspicuous and elusive at the far back of the stage.

Maynard James Keenan revealed in the recesses of the stage

The crowd was moderately aggressive, especially close to the stage as we were, with many near-altercations that converted instantly into joyful and convivial mosh pits. Having started the show a couple of minutes late, it ended somewhat past the scheduled conclusion. The final piece, “Stinkfist” was still audible in the distance as we hurriedly crossed the vast field to catch a late ferry back to the City.

Solace at Paul Booth Gallery

Nature at Last Rites Gallery

The Booth and Last Rites Galleries on West 38th St in Manhattan are ever the places to visit for the latest in art with a gothic/punk/industrial flavor. Founded by renowned tattoo artist, Paul Booth in 2007 as an adjunct to his legendary tattoo parlor, these galleries operate in tandem to exhibit surrealist art with a grotesque and morbid leaning.

June 3 saw the opening reception for 2 simultaneous exhibitions. The one on the first floor was called “Solace.” On display there were, among other works, large-scale (up to 9’ X 10’), high-priced (up to $40,000) oil paintings by Adam Miller in the style of old masters depicting allegorical histories, anachronistic mythological characters in modern situations and bizarre images, all done with incredibly masterful technique. His magnificent “Dream of Paradise Remembered by Moonlight” served as the cover image on the flyer for the event.

Lou Ros, a former graffiti artist had smaller, whimsical works of oil and acrylic, some of which looked like he had purposely vandalized cleaner, neater works with pastels, added childish scrawls and the like.

Jean-Paul Mallozzi’s mixed graphite, ink, oil and acrylics also had a playful, vandalized look, featuring portraits literally defaced i.e., rendered anonymous by obliterating identifying features with gobs of medium.

Upstairs the exhibit was called “Dark Nature.” Exquisite, elaborate graphite drawings by Zoe Keller were attention-grabbers, as were metaphorical works by Annie Terrazzo.

Black Line

Treason, Sedition and Subversive Activities

Available on digital download

Black Line is an evolving, LA-based collective fronted by Nitzer Ebb vocalist Douglas McCarthy and founder, electronic music producer, Cyrusrex. The long list of collaborators is a who’s who of the electro-industrial scene, and includes such famous names as Paul Barker (Ministry/Puscifer) and Mark Walk (Skinny Puppy/OhGr) plus many more, equally famous. “Treason, Sedition and Subversive Activities” consists of 14 tracks with a decidedly high-tech sound.

McCarthy’s voice is familiar to fans of Nitzer Ebb. Whether hissing, growling or full-throated, it is generally up front, rendering the elaborately complex synthetic music personal and emotionally accessible. At once angry and desperate, his singing brings a welcome, melodious element to the busy, manufactured music. The instrumental intros to each of these songs afford the artists opportunity to create a variety of auras, some ghostly, others pregnant with a sense of impending significance. The manifold layers of sound include both familiar and unfamiliar synthesized electronic voices, plus menacing, low-pitched buzzing sounds, high-frequency arpeggios, simulation of a human heart-beat and something suggesting banging on an electronic trash can. The listener’s interest never has a chance to lag into boredom.

There is breadth to this album, with tracks that range from those that feature rapid disco-beats to those that sound like a remorseless, plodding, zombie march. McCarthy’s vocal narratives, some with backup male vocalists, hold it all together. A few tracks are voiceless, sounding like eerie, ethereal soundscapes or soundtracks for an apocalyptic sci-fi movie.

Alison Moyet

Other

Cooking Vinyl

If Alison Moyet ‘s name isn’t a household term in the U.S. it isn’t for any lack of recognition in the U.K. and the rest of the English-speaking world. In the 80s she co-founded duo Yazoo (“Yaz” in the U.S.) with Depeche Mode’s Vince Clarke. She then she moved to a solo career with the album “Alf” (her punk nickname) that reached number 1 on the U.K. charts. Since then she has put out a number of albums with varying degrees of success. She has collaborated or appeared with Paul McCartney, the Eurythmics, Bob Geldof, Bowie, Sinead O’Connor and Pete Townshend.

“Other” contains 10 tracks of a predominantly synthpop style, highly accessible, and obviously the work of an accomplished music professional and veteran with mastery of a variety of vocal techniques. Famed for her impressive contralto, her voice is “bluesy” although the music isn’t Blues by any means.

The first track has a trip-hop feel reminiscent of Portishead and affords the artist to showcase her powerful and emotionally evocative tremolo – as do several tracks that follow. Melancholy, but not morose, her vocal style fits equally well with slow-paced grooves as well as mesmerizing, rapidly paced dance tracks. She sounds sweet – like a string instrument – in the fourth track, then goes deep during the funky, explosive fifth track. The seventh track is an engaging, existential spoken word poem layered on a menacing, hissing soundscape. When, on the eighth track she is accompanied by a limited piano, she modulates her singing to the same sparse, exquisite level, but raises her presentation to almost operatic level when reaching for her raw, rock roots on several other tracks.

Listeners will find this album with its variety of styles accessible, appealing and quick to grow on them. This is artist knows how to express herself and therefore how to engage and please an audience.

Alison Moyet will tour the USA and Canada later this summer, hitting the Philadelphia/Boston/ New York circuit in early to mid-September.

New Dark Age May 2017 – First Anniversary Issue

Filed under: Uncategorized — doktorjohn May 16, 2017 @ 6:17 pm

Steampunk World’s Fair 2017

Jeff Mach has been hosting the SPWF since 2010, but the concept of Steampunk, that mix of space-age science and steam-age technology,goes way back to April 1987, when writer K.W. Jeter came up with the name to describe the category of that Victorian fantasy literature. Held annually the SPWF has grown so large that it now takes over two hotels, The Embassy Suites and the Radisson in Piscataway NJ – as well as the large courtyard between the two hotels, where a performance stage and vendors of antiques, crafted items and curiosities line a fairway where bizarrely costumed attendees can promenade.

QXT’s – Human Music Warm Up Party
Strict Machine

The Red Party

The Red Party held its 10th anniversary celebration on April 8, 2017 at Manhattan’s Mercury Lounge, its current home hosted by Mother Goth, Mandana Banshee Templar. Starting out as a dedicated Goth club at 200 Orchard St in NYC’s Lower East Side, bucking the then-trend of synth-pop and EBM, the Red Party made its way to Le Poisson Rouge for a while, then took up residence at Mercury. In the meanwhile, Communion, the Limelight, the Bank, the Batcave, Absolution, CBGB’s and CB’s Gallery left the scene.

The original Red Party deejays, Sean Templar, Jarek Zelazny were joined by Peter Holikaris Holik from SWitzerland for the anniversary event. The setlist consisted of a strictly curated mix of Goth, Post-punk and Deathrock in keeping with the histoprical theme. A live performance by The Long Losts , represented by the couple, Anka and Patrick created the highpoint of the celebration, bringing their year-round Halloween style to the party. Look for them at the upcoming Steampunk World’s Fair.

The Strange Exchange at Wellmont in Montclair


Strange Exchange April 15

The Aquarian and Weird NJ held their several-times-a-year odd-ball flea market at the Wellmont in Montclair on April 15, as they have been doing for a couple of years now, featuring vendors of offbeat crafts and collectibles, music and clowns . Stationed outside are a variety of food trucks and an entourage of eccentrically clad patrons, promoters and curiosity-seekers.

Grainy footage and trailers from classic horror movies and cult films shown on the stage big screen overlooking the market as one wends one’s way through the various levels and aisles where books, custom-printed pillows, scented soaps, homemade sweets, second-hand garments, hand-made accessories and punk-art pieces are sold. Alcoholic and soft beverages were dispensed by bartender Ike. A towering Easter bunny and a jovial, horn-honking, costumed gorilla mingled and posed for photos with guests.

Museums

Ripley’s Odditorium Times Square
Ripley’s Believe It or Not

Robert Ripley started this venerable franchise, which highlights the bizarre and incredible, as a syndicated newspaper feature back in 1918. As a kid, I remember cherishing the appearance of the weekly cartoon panel in whatever papers carried it. That childish fascination with grotesque humanity has informed the aesthetic sensibilities of many within the gothic, punk and industrial communities. It was an important cornerstone in the all-too-brief existence of the now-defunct Morbid Anatomy Museum, whose exhibitions were featured frequently in the reports of this column.

Ignoring the risks that I would be poisoning the minds of our two 4 and 6 year-old little girls, we took them on an outing to the commercialized but still fascinating “odditorium” on Times Square where there were some surprises along with the usual displays related giants, midgets and tattooed individuals.
I was pleased that Ripley’s thought enough of old-school punk couture to clothe a couple of manikins with the outfits and tattoos our tiny tots might aspire to wear when they grew to adolescence.
Other “teaching moments” occurred when taking the kiddies to tour the medieval torture chamber, the electric chair, Ripley’s collection of shrunken heads and Napoleon’s semi-authentic death mask. They also benefitted from a display case featuring the contents of the recommended kit for hunting and killing vampires.

Asbury Park Music and Film Festival

April 20 – 23
Various venues
Asbury Park, NJ
We decided to break out of the gothic-punk-industrial dungeon we normally occupy in order to examine one of the cornerstones of mainstream rock music where it resides and is on full display at the annual music and film festival in Asbury Park NJ. Starting on Thursday night of what unfolded as a four-day weekend oh live performances and film presentations covering everything for which the music scene at the Jersey Shore is famous, adolescent prodigies to Asbury’s own classic rock’n’rollers to a late-blossoming octogenarian blues man.

Along the way, and with the aid of some carefully produced and directed documentaries, we were able to piece together a portrait of the unique culture and roots of what makes this town of 16,000 such a legendary location and the breeding ground for its own brand of world-renowned music and culture.
With more than 10 venues and numerous acts and countless peronalities, it would be impossible to report on more than a small fraction of what went on at the APMFF.
The first event we attended was at the Langosta Lounge where the movie “Late Blossom Blues” traced the recent discovery of a then-81 year-old (now 84) blues man, Leo “Bud” Welch, one of the few living masters of down home, delta blues. Welch is unique in having not been discovered until he was in his 80s. After the screening, Welch moved to Langosta’s performance space and put on a live show that would be near impossible to experience anywhere north of the Mason-Dixon line.

The next day, Friday, the documentary “Just Before Dawn” was shown at the cavernous Paramount Theater, situated at the northern end of the boardwalk. Employing creative cinematography and archival footage, it told the story of the Upstairs Club where musicians reconvened, afterhours, to jam and hone their skills after they had finished performing at the many music venues that prevailed in the golden age of Asbury. It was at the Upstairs that famous talents such as Springsteen developed their style and skills.

Later we stood cheek-by-jowl with a tightly packed audience at the Stone Pony to see famous pedal steel guitarist Robert Randolph and the Family Band perform some vigorous R & B. Over at the Wonder Bar, a 5-piece brass band, Lucky Chops performed unbelievably energetic jazz in a manner suggestive of a high school marching band gone wonderfully berserk.

On Saturday we sat for a series of film shorts at the Cookman Avenue gallery, Art 629. Entries included an affectionate documentary on the popular cover band, The Nerds, then an eco-minded appeal in “The Pines,” and a positively delightful animation, “Where Do the Seasons Get Their Names” which wound up being named winner of best short film at the festival. One disappointment was the film “Boujeloud; Father of Skins,” which should have told the tale of an Sufi community in Morocco who still honor – musically – the ancient Mediterranean god Pan, but turned into tedious, boring footage of male dancers and musicians playing traditional instruments against a backdrop of women preparing meals by hand.

The film “Local Legends” picks up the story of Asbury’s renaissance after the 1970 riots left it in shambles. Dilapidated and boarded up buildings are seen to prevail for the decades of the 80s and the 90s, yet the majestic and monumental, but equally abandoned Conventional Hall, the towering Old Heating Plant and the massive Carousel always hinted at a return to grandeur. In fact, the decrepit environment and cheap real estate fostered an influx of artists, the LGBT and – inevitably – musicians. Veterans, hot-rodders, bikers and photographers collaborated with furniture and antique dealers, investors, clergy, police, and other community leaders. All were connected by music and the town’s musical heritage rendering support to ownership and rehabilitation of music venues, clubs, bars and restaurants.

The Asbury Park signature musical sound, cultivated by all night, unpaid jam sessions at the Upstairs, emerged as a hybrid of classic rock, blues and metal that developed from playing covers of top 70s radio hits. This was brought to life at the APMFF when Little Steven and the Disciples of Soul took the stage at the Paramount, featuring a stadium-sized sound made up of Van Zandt’s vocals accompanied by guitars, bass, drums, native percussion, piano, synthesizer, a 5-piece brass band and 3 soul sister back-up singers. Bruce Springsteen himself, the sainted idol of this community, with whom Van Zandt had long ago collaborated, made an unscheduled appearance and by joining in, endorsed and sanctified the band, the Asbury sound and the festival.
Meanwhile, at the Stone Pony, Me First & the Gimme Gimmes performed spoofy, over-the-top covers of saccharine favorites to a packed house, while at the Wonder Bar, Waynard Scheller’s band reprised the jam style and music of the Grateful Dead.

Sunday morning gave us an opportunity to check out Danny Clinch’s large format celebrity photographs at Transparent, his studio which also houses Tina Kerekes’ vintage furniture gallery attached to the hotel.
The afternoon highlight was the incredibly polished performance by a highly accomplished band of pubescent hard rockers, The Junior Pros, shredding and drumming out covers of familiar hits by Heart and Guns’n Roses at the Wonder Bar. This crew of highly trained and talented kids were among the entries from the Lakehouse Music Fest, a showcase of a dedicated music school that could have served as a model for the film “School of Rock.”
Back on Cookman Avenue, at the House of Independents another such group of gifted youngsters calling themselves Morricone Youth performed a live, original soundtrack to accompany an unfortunately glitchy screening of one of the Mad Max movies.

On Sunday, the final day at the APMFF, we returned to the Paramount where singer-songwriter, vocalist and harpist Mikaela Davis and her group warmed the sellout crowd with melancholy folk and psychedelic rock chamber music prior to the performance of The Preservation Hall Jazz Band. This venerable New Orleans-based touring group of virtuoso musicians is dedicated to preserving the heritage of original New Orleans jazz. So joyous, so earnest, so captivating was the band that about half the audience rose up and crowded the foot of the stage in overjoyed adulation and rhythmic swaying right through to the end of the show.

Final thoughts: A celebration of the history, culture and heritage of Asbury Park and the integration of film into the festival is the right thing to do if this community is to be restored as the gem of the Jersey shore, especially in light of the decline of Atlantic City. And while the emphasis has to continue to be on the unique place that Asbury and its progeny have in the cultural life of New Jersey, there must be – in future festivals – a further broadening into the musical styles and genres that have emerged from the rest of the world, lest the APMFF become fossilized into stale nostalgia. This is imperative because comparisons are being made in reference to the famous South by Southwest festival. Happily, the attention APMFF gives to young performers and their new interpretations foretells a potentially spectacular future for the festival and the city itself.

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