Sunday, March 8, 2015

CONCERT REVIEW: Suicide live at Webster Hall, NYC, March 7th, 2015 + Alan Vega Art Review

Suicide is a hugely influencial duo, responsible for coining the term "Punk Music" to describe their sound. They play stripped down electronic rhythms with drum machines and synths over vocals that are often intense screams. For me, notable artists that have been influenced by Suicide are Henry Rollins, who included a cover of Suicide's "Ghostrider" in live sets for years; and Andrew Eldritch of The Sisters Of Mercy. In fact, Andrew collaborated with Alan Vega of Suicide on his infamous Gift EP which allowed him to legally use the name The Sisterhood and thus prevent Wayne Hussey from using it when the Sisters fractured following the release of First, Last, and Always. But that's a whole other story and I've just related the meat of it, as I understand it anyway. See the photo of my coveted copy of Gift below:

On Friday the 6th of March, while seeing if Suicide had anything posted online regarding the show, I discovered that Alan Vega was displaying artwork at a gallery in Chinatown NYC, called Invisible Exports. Per the website, Genesis Breyer P-Orridge of Throbbing Gristle and Psychic TV (not to mention a seemingly infinite host of other music collaborations) has displayed projects there several times. Having time to do so, I visited the gallery to celebrate and enjoy Alan Vega's art, as well as to explore what sort of headspace he might be in during the show on Saturday. The exhibit consisted of  a series of sketches of old men made by Vega, as well as some light sculptures. The sketches were very loose and noodly, and I found different aspects of the faces captured in each were differently apparent when viewed from either the left or right, compared to straight on. I'm no critic so I'll leave it at that, but the portraits were interesting. The light sculptures were large installations of multiple materials (wood, metal, and electronic components) with various lights attached. The overall vibe was of an impressionistic, sketchy representation of walking down a neon-lit red-light district; decay and disorder amongst bright, inviting lights. I really liked the light sculptures and wished more than two were on display. The exhibit is open until March 29th, and though small and possible to view very quickly, I think it's worth any Suicide fan's time to check out. You'll also be near Shanghai Cafe, a favorite place of mine to get some cheap and DELICIOUS Chinese food (I highly recommend getting some dumplings and scallion pancakes) since my partner first took me there several years ago.

As for the show itself, NYC's Pharmakon opened the night up with some harsh and intense noise. A one-woman project of Margaret Chardiet, I could really feel the intensity as she yanked knobs, bashed equipment, and jumped into the crowd screaming. This is the type of music that's extremely cathartic, I would love to read an interview about how Margaret feels after performing. How she feels during the show is painfully obvious; it's obviously painful. Her style would have been quite at home with Cold Meat Industry artists like Brighter Death Now.

The Vacant Lots followed Pharmakon; a duo of gents playing guitar over some dancey electronic beats and minimal keyboards. The vocals are droned out and spacey, regardless of which member is singing. I will note that the keyboardist did put a bit more harshness in his delivery at times, though rare. The guitarist's mother was in the crowd, standing near me, so that added an interesting depth to the show. The Vacant Lots sound a bit like a polished Suicide mixed with more accessible Sisters Of Mercy and what New Order might have sounded like if they kept the music as minimal as in Joy Division, and as sad. An enjoyable opener.

Finally, Suicide took the stage. I was unsure of what to expect as Martin Rev (electronics) is 67 and Alan Vega (vocals) is 76. What I got was barely recognizable versions of Suicide songs (I could only make out "Cheree", a portion of "Frankie Teardrop", and what might have been "Ghostrider" with improvised vocals) as Martin Rev smashed, punched, and generally abused his keyboard setup to produce constant noise over EXTREMELY loud programmed drums at Motördecibels while Alan Vega mostly improvised the lyrics and screamed at the audience or wandered about the stage. Martin Rev was intense the whole show, shooting contemptuous grimaces at the electronics he was assaulting while I couldn't tell if Alan Vega is senile, crazy, or just didn't give a fuck. This was a Punk-as-hell show in that these artists gave it their all, still performing messed up Rock that challenges your expectations, even if they have to sit in a chair and even if it kills them to do so. This is Punk for life, this is "I'm doing it my way." In short, this is Suicide.

*Review and photos copyright The Samnambulist, 2015*

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