The first official night of Cold Waves Festival, in Los Angeles for its second year, kicked off on Thursday September 28. Located on the outskirts of downtown, a stacked line-up of postpunk, EBM and industrial acts took the stage at 1720, a new venue in the arts district that blends in among various warehouses under a freeway overpass. Thursday’s lineup featured ohGr, Lead Into Gold, Author & Punisher, Cocksure, Omniflux and Rhys Fulber, who also performed at the kick-off party the evening before at The Echo.
The night began with special guest DJ Tommy, the resident DJ at the goth-themed Bar Sinister in Hollywood. As people continued to come in, Rhys Fulber followed with a series of trip-hop and electronica tracks. The night began to slow as Omniflux prepared to take the stage. Nevertheless, after overcoming some technical issues (she did mention not getting a soundcheck), she persisted. Mahsa Zargaran, a Puscifer alumna, graced the stage alone as Omiflux. She eased the crowd into what would become a night that really leaned into the heaviness and experimental nature of industrial music and its subgenres.
Aside from a few moments when Zargaran addressed the crowd, she performed with no spotlight. Only the background projection illuminated her presence, a composition of changing collages of various images that included, sketches, Greco-Roman statues and stained glass, to name a few. When she performed, Omniflux was lost in her own trance behind her “curtain of hair.” Her whispered soprano over synthy jabs and rhythmic static felt appropriate for an existential dance break. Her happiness to perform at Cold Waves radiated: “I’m so happy to be playing here. I love so many people in this city.” It was the last night of her tour across North America doing her own music (“highly recommended”) and with the last song came relief. To signal farewell, she said “And my vacation starts right now.”
1720 was probably most full for Chris Connelly and Jason Novak’s group Cocksure. Novak was a member of Acumen Nation alongside Jamie Duffy, who the event honors. Connelly was one of few musicians that evening to truly acknowledge Cold Waves as a memorial concert for Duffy and fundraiser for suicide awareness and prevention causes. “There’s a special reason we do it,” he explained. It was an interesting switch to see the duo momentarily sentimental in relation to their punky set. They started with “Hi Talez,” Connelly singing of lager, LSD and cigarettes. Cocksure all played wearing sunglasses. Connelly donned a white shirt, while Novak wore a Hawaiian vacation-like light blue and yellow button up. They closed with “Assault on Cocksure 13,” a track of electronic whooshing and Connelly chanting: “A! S! S! Assault!”
When Tristan Shone of Author & Punisher was ready, he put his drink in the air. Others followed suit and cheered to the start of a new set. Author & Punisher was like a mix of those acts that came before, with a dash more of a metal flare. His music was heavy, but like Omniflux, he performed alone in the tradition of EDM musicians. However, this was no DJ set, but perhaps a goth rave would’ve been appropriate. He was surrounded by more than just a laptop, including keyboard and various synthesizer-type gadgets. Chaos in sight and sound shook 1720. Shone put on an impressive display of the death growl, an intense experience heightened by seizing lights that changed in color according to the song (purple, red, bronze). To exit his sonically violent performance, Shone put up his hand and bowed his head to relay “thank you.”
Paul Barker as Lead Into Gold switched the night back to its more industrial roots. “Hello everybody,” Barker greeted Cold Waves patrons. Like Omniflux, who joined him to play guitar, Barker never had a spotlight. He too was accompanied by an ever-changing projection from behind that featured abstract images, primarily highlighting lines and colors. The crowd that had slightly dwindled was once again fuller, cheering as Barker began. He occasionally paced the small stage with the microphone stand in tow. In light of the dismal overtones, Barker joked he had “a few more love songs.”
Toward the end, he chatted for a bit. He was the other musician that mentioned the night’s purpose, thanking the crowd for coming out to the fundraiser, and then, with a dry wit, said, “We’ve been out for six weeks now, and I think it’s about time to stop.” In continuation with such a tone, he introduced the last song and said, “maybe you’ll even like it.” Barker’s voice was low, almost robotic throughout the set, making it generally hard to decipher exact words. His last track started with a static drop, which led into a drum tick. It then led into a song that felt relatively happier than the rest, finishing so the audience could feel vibrations in their chest. There was a shout for more Lead Into Gold, but it was Barker’s time to exit.
With the theatrical nature of ohGr, it only made sense that they would close out the six-act bill. “Los Angeles, let’s get freaky,” frontman Nivek Ogre greeted the audience, on the cusp of midnight. Ogre wore a black hoodie and face paint and a mask as to resemble a bunny with no teeth. The rest of the band had their own alternative styles, featuring a lot of black, shaved heads, very long hair and a little bit of both. Ogre growled over beats that ranged from light synth-pop to heavily industrial–sometimes a mixture of the genres. What distinguished ohGr was each member’s loyalty to the performance. Until the encore, Ogre stayed in character as a bunnyman musician, with a top hat, wand and bunny puppet in tow. He patrolled the staged with severity, stopping to shoot a look into the audience. Bassist William Morrison and guitarist Matthew Setzer displayed constant excitement, whether through jumping up and down in anticipation for the next song or making exaggerated faces in reacting to Ogre. When the drummer would patter the cymbals, he would rise from his seat, then go back down, repeating and mouthing the words until the end of the section.
When ohGr came back for the encore, Ogre attempted to hypnotize the audience, or at least bring them back to a moment of simplicity, with a homemade vortex that kept breaking. “Alright, I guess we’ll do what we should be doing up here which is music,” he concluded. They capped the night with songs from their 2001 album, Welt: “DeviL” and “Water.” When ohGr walked off, they paused to shake hands and acknowledge fans, proving Cold Waves as also a community gathering. 1720 will entertain the rest of such a community the next couple of nights as Cold Waves makes its way to the Front Line Assembly finale on Saturday.
All Photos: Ekaterina Gorbacheva