Scenes from the Southeast: The 2015 FUIMU

Originally published on RivetDB, back when they were called Rivet Gig and had a blog.  Photos also by me.


First, I have to apologize to openers Synthetic Solution for missing their act due to car troubles,

Overall, though, the Florida Underground Industrial Music festival was the best show I’ve been to in quite a while, bringing in talent from all over the state—and Georgia—for a strong set in a great atmosphere.

It took place at The Orpheum, a small Tampa venue popular with goth, industrial, and metal acts; Peter Murphy plays here every time he comes through town, and Front 242 stopped in for their only southern tour date. It fits about 500 people, of which about 350 attended at the most crowded point during the Ludovico Technique’s set: a good audience for a still esoteric genre.

4:41 PM – Finite Automata

I come in in the middle of the Atlanta trio’s set.  They play fairly paint-by-numbers aggrotech, to be honest: one guy triggers pre-programmed sequences on a keyboard, another shouts into a distortion filter. But the latter, Mod Eschar, has such an energetic stage presence that it’s hard not to share his enthusiasm.

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Dressed in a bloodstained shirt that gets torn off halfway through, he thrashes around the stage, and at the climax, takes out a steak knife and pantomimes self-mutilation with it, leaving me wondering if he’s actually going to break skin at several points. (He doesn’t.)

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A few songs in, guitarist Mat Syn starts to play. His guitar lines, while mostly simple tremolo picking and chords, add a new dimension to the repetitive beats. Towards the end of the set, the small audience—most of whom were just standing toward the back of the venue and watching thoughtfully—has started to dance.

5:30 PM – Die Sektor

Die Sektor, from the same city, shows up in street clothes; no chains, patches, or bondage pants on any of the members.

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They proceed to absolutely kill. For a change from many industrial shows I’ve seen, the two keyboardists play everything live, including the beats, which Scott Denman bashes out on a Roland drum machine.

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They seamlessly integrate all kinds of sounds into their music, from orchestras to dubstep wobbles, to slashes of sampled metal guitars.

Lead singer Edwin Alter is the only one for the entire night to use unfiltered vocals (aside from the Ludovico Technique on one song) relying on his own competent growls and vocal range to provide the intensity.

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The dance floor begins to fill up. The doorman estimates there are about 200 people by this point.

6:25 PM – 00tz 00tz

00tz 00tz (from Tampa by way of The Bronx) has two keyboardists as well, who play everything live, although they make less of a show of it than Die Sektor. They also have two lead singers, who are a study in opposites.

Krysta Button stays glued to one spot, singing with eerie calm though a flanger that makes her sound like a possessed doll.

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Nicky Phoenix thrashes around the stage, shrieking and slam dancing. At one point, he stops singing to play a small doumbek drum. Although inaudible, it’s amusing in its contrast with their loud, aggressive sound. He spends a lot of time hopping up and down with his fist in the air, with one keyboardist, who was unfortunately too far back on the stage for my flash to capture, joining in as they play material from their upcoming album,”Poisoned Minds and Broken Hearts.”

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However, Krysta comes alive for the finale, “Tonight (We Die Together),” screaming her climactic lyrics as Nicky bends over to bellow his directly into her face.

7:15 – Mr. Kitty

This is going to be awkward.

Mr. Kitty, as the name hints is one guy with one keyboard. In deliberate contrast to the black-clad crowd, he’s dressed head to toe in white. He doesn’t have a light show, any props, or for that matter, much showmanship.

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His music is best described as dreamy synthpop. He’s good, don’t get me wrong, but this is very much not a dreamy synthpop crowd. Not to mention he has one of the oddest voices I’ve ever heard. I can’t tell if it’s an effect or if he’s just preternaturally good at falsetto, but if you closed your eyes, you could easily convince yourself there’s a ten-year-old girl onstage. A few audience members dance—some genuinely, some with clear sarcasm—but most just stand around looking bemused. Some people around the edges of the crowd snicker.

I briefly wonder if we’re being trolled; and a discrete “Go Fuck Yourself” sticker on his keyboard seems to support that theory. If so, I admire his commitment to it, but I consider stepping out. I hate watching bands die onstage.

But by the middle of the show, he’s turned it around. He drops his voice down to its normal pitch, occasionally using the squeaky one for accompaniment, and performs some pretty solid 80’s-esque New Wave. The crowd is digging it by this point. For his finale, he leads them in a singalong of Alice Deejay’s “Better off Alone,” which, surprisingly, a good portion of them actually get into.

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By the end, a substantial number of people are dancing, and the snickers have completely stopped. Even some of the people who seemed to hate it at the beginning are bobbing their heads.

In the bathroom after his set, I overhear two big guys, presumably show organizers, saying “Aren’t you glad we got him?” “Yeah, that was better than I expected.” And for the rest of the night, people come up to him offering fist bumps and congratulations.

8:10 – The Ludovico Technique

With the crowd’s headcount reaching its peak, Orlando’s Ludovico Technique, the band I’ll admit I was most looking forward to, begins their set.

They’re the first band to bring a drummer along. And when he sound-checks with an inhumanly fast double kick solo, I know the audience is in for something awesome. And they don’t disappoint.

Their set begins with a barrage of Clockwork Orange samples and ambient noise, courtesy of keyboardist Evan B.

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Then, lead singer Ben V storms out from backstage. Pardon the cliché, but the only word I can think of to describe his first impression is “ghoulish.” Coated in gray body paint like an undead Homestuck, he hunches over, claws his hands, and screeches through a harsh vocoder. When he gets close, I notice he has a mouthful of fake blood which dribbles down his chin throughout the set.

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Despite his zombielike dress, however, his stage presence is very alive, bursting with frenetic energy. He interacts with the crowd constantly, running to one end of the stage to bend down and sing to audience members up close, then dashing back to the other to fall to his knees and scream his vocals to the sky.

“They say industrial is dead” he shouts during a break between songs. “But not here in Tampa!” The crowd goes wild, cheering and shouting “Fuck no!”

There are a few technical problems throughout the show: a few songs in, the drum mic cuts out, forcing them to stop mid-song and fix it. “Shit or get off the pot!” One audience smartass yells. But they quickly recover from them to go on to a stunning finale.

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9:10 – Tactical Sekt

Closer Tactical Sekt is the second band to come in wearing street clothes, proving once again that dressing up for a show, while nice, is somewhat an unnecessary affectation.

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They’re good. Not stunning, but certainly not bad either. They’re just all-around good, leaving me with not much in particular to either laud or criticize them about.

Singer Anthony Mather makes the audience the focus of the show, or at least an equal participant; holding the mic out for them to scream and sing along into it, running along the front of the stage high-fiving people who stick their hands out, and delivering frequent Make-Some-Noise’s.

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At one point, he picks up an audience member’s toddler (I’m not sure whether bringing a child to a boozy, smoke-filled industrial show is bad parenting or awesome parenting) and carries him on his shoulder while singing.

However, the very thing that makes them hard to write about also makes them the perfect closer. In a way, this is what industrial should be. No flash, theatrics, or pretension, just ordinary people making great music and interacting with the crowd.

Overall

For Florida’s relative lack of music culture, Tampa does have one of the best industrial scenes in the country right now, and the glut of local artists coming together for shows like this speaks to it.

Agree with my assessment? Disagree? Saw Synthetic Solution and want to throw in your two cents?  Leave us a comment on Facebook.

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