Not so much a pet hate but rather a pet regret is showing up at a venue after the support has finished, only to discover you missed a quality act.
Such was the case when we went to see Forces and The Night Terrors back in April. The occasion was an ANZAC long weekend of gigs — the only Australian goth industrial EBM festival that is Fiend Fest was also on that weekend — and the venue was the Melbourne hipster hive mind that is Howler.
But don’t hold against them the fact that there were bicycle racks filled with fixies — it’s actually a pretty cool venue.
The artist we had just missed as we walked in was Italo disco man Fabio Umberto. Now I like my electronic music hard and dark and filthy and prior to the event I’d made my feelings clear on the venue’s Facebook page with some mildly disparaging comment about the genre. Yet, as we entered the venue, a mate grabbed me to point out just how awesome this dude was and had I seen it?
Said mate happens to be a long-haired, tattooed, leather jacket-wearing, bass playing maniac who plays savagely brutal blackened thrash metal. When someone like this points out the merits of an electronic artist — and particularly an Italo disco electronic music artist —it’s probably because he’s onto something.
This was to be a theme throughout the rest of the night. The best band seem to have the most mixed and diverse crowds. But more on that later.
Melbourne’s electronic synth duo Forces were up next. The electro music pair of Alex and Tom are building quite a following, if the number of faces also seen at previous Forces gigs is anything to go by (airplay on Triple J doesn’t hurt either).
Seeing Forces live is always a memorable experience. One guy presses play on his laptop to pipe out pre-recorded electronic sounds, while muttering incomprehensible words into a reverb-drowned microphone, all the while making awkward, jerking movements on stage; the other is always in his darkest sunglasses and thick bomber jacket, not moving anywhere while he’s stationed at his synthesised drum pads with a look of such intensity it could stun a small child.
It shouldn’t work. But it does.
I love the way Forces do this and evidently so do all those people who keep showing up at their gigs. I’ve seen Forces live half a dozen times and the best description that most seem to agree on is that it is reminiscent of an industrial music gig in Canada somewhere back in the ’80s with Skinny Puppy. Except, with that modern-sounding synth touch.
|Melbourne's Forces live. Metal heads (only an arm is visible) are in the front row.|
At the risk of saying something teeth-grindingly lame, it’s the live ‘vibe’ of Forces that I like most. While the electro Forces sound is magnificent, it’s the feeling of a dark performance in a warehouse, where you’re one of a crowd of miscreants, discovering something new and important, that brings me and others back — and it’s open to anyone who wants it.
Forces aren’t strictly about industrial music, even though EBM and industrial music lovers can strongly identify with this sound.
Force aren’t strictly about minimal, bleepy electronics, even though I’ve see veteran electronic music producers salivate over some of the sounds they come up with.
Forces aren’t even about being hipsters (indie rock anyone?) despite the strong hipsterish showing at every gig.
And Forces certainly are not metal heads, yet the front row at this Forces gig had three metal heads absolutely digging this massive electronically synthesized, 100 per cent guitar-free sound.
As I said, the coolest bands always have the most diverse following.
My only complaint? Perhaps I’m biased because I’ve loved metal since I was 10 years old…
Forces would bring the roof down if they added a live guitarist. Even if it’s just for the slow, chugging tracks. Those electronic numbers would become slow-paced monster headbangers.
THE NIGHT TERRORS
What is the band you’ve seen live more than any other? I was thinking about this the other day and through various circumstances over the years, for me it would have to be The Night Terrors.
I wish it were Iron Maiden, who I saw on five occasions over two tours, but alas the ticket prices, beer prices, merch prices, and relative scarcity of Australian Iron Maiden tours makes it a difficult proposition.
So Night Terrors is the local band (for local people, we’ll have no trouble here — see what I did there?) that I’ve seen live more than any other.
I could give you a blow-by-blow account of The Night Terrors at this gig but you don’t really want that because there are a million live gig reports out there.
Rather, the following anecdote will explain what The Night Terrors are about...
|The Night Terrors live. To the left is the theremin.|
It was my first ever Night Terrors gig, held eight or so years ago at that wonderfully warm and grotty little venue that is the now defunct Arthouse Hotel. And seeing this band live for the first time was strange. Mesmerising. Heavy. Hypnotic. All of it coming from the one source.
There was the theremin, played in full congress with the rest of the band as a legitimately in-key, actual live instrument. The first time I heard and most importantly saw this exotic device get played, I was left with a feeling of transfixed wonderment. The lauding expletive-ridden comments of other Arthouse punters at the end of the night suggests it wasn’t just me who felt that way.
Then there was the drummer. From that time onwards I seem to recall The Night Terrors beats were helmed by monster drummers, octopus sticksmen who could fill you with the warm comfort of knowing you’ll never be anywhere near that good.
One night (not at this first ever Night Terrors gig, but a subsequent one) they put on a show at another dingey venue with a small stage. This was back in the era of when smoking inside venues was still allowed, so with one song to go, the drummer lit up behind the kit.
I was looking at him and he just finished rolling his own cigarette when he started playing, that lit fag hanging from a corner of his mouth. Suddenly, his hand reached to his face in a panic, maniacally rubbing his eye. Turns out he got cigarette smoke straight in his eye — and like a true monster drummer, he just kept on playing. With one hand. While desperately wiping smoke out of his eye with the other.
Then there was the synth. Back at the Arthouse, during warm-up sound check, the in-house sound guy got the keys player to play her synth, remaking “That’s a rock n’ roll synth” at the kicking sounds it produced through the ‘well loved’ Arthouse PA.
And then there was that bass, Night Terrors front-man Miles’ other instrument. Played like a boss, according to my guitar-mad drinking buddy that night. I’ll take his word for it, even though I am not a musician myself (although I am exceptionally good at listening to music)
So that was my first ever Night Terrors gig. You could tell who there had seen them for the first night. Half of them uttered words to the effect of “that was fu***d up” — in the most admiring and best possible way of course.
|I did feel for her. Her hair kept swishing around, which in turn kept obscuring her face. But what a trooper for keeping on playing with hair-impaired vision — Lord knows, I would have gone crazy if it was me.|
So over the years and various occasions since during which I have seen The Night Terrors live, there have been changes in drummers, synth players and the overall direction.
There was the all-over-the-place-sounding, improvised feel of The Night Terrors from a couple of years after I first saw them live. Was it jazz? Free form? Impro? As I said, I have zero music-making ability. But it was all over the place chaos.
There was the crazy, musical virtuoso, stare-in-wonderment feel of The Night Terrors from when I first discovered them. I’ve already told you about that and the effect it had on the Arthouse punters whose minds — accustomed as they were mostly to simple punk riffs — were expanded by the enchanting sound of the theremin.
And then there’s recent Night Terrors sound, perhaps slightly more 4/4, or dare I say, more accessible? I’m going to call space — just space, not space rock, although it’s pretty rockin’ — for lack of a better term.
There’s probably a whole lot more Night Terrors in between.
Does that description do justice to the night? On this occasion, the gig was to promote The Night Terrors’ Spiral Vortex album launch.
As they were playing, I looked around at some of the faces, caught a conversation or two in the toilets, and I was reminded of my own first Night Terrors gig from all those years ago. The strange, mesmerising, heavy and hypnotic effect was as apparent on new faces throughout the dark room as it was back at the Arthouse.
More to the point, The Night Terrors sound may have changed over the years, but one thing remains constant with this band: they still make people’s heads spin when they’re seen for the first time.
The Night Terrors are many things to many people and this is always evident in the varied following that materialises at their gigs. Metal heads. Freaks. Hipsters and geeks.
As I said, the coolest bands always have the most diverse following.