Hospital Productions, founded by Prurient frontman Dominic Fernow, organized Hospital Fest at the Knockdown Center in Queens over the weekend, where music’s strangest and most extraordinary musicians gathered to put on a show flush with dark, ominous electronica, thrash metal and experimental noise bands.
One of the earliest performances in the day came from experimental noise musician Masahiko Okubo better known by the stage name Linekraft. He layered his music with deep, complex electronica while screaming into a microphone before distorting that and incorporating it into the instrumentals. At one point during his set, he took swords and a pipe and battered certain instruments around the stage that created a literal noise of destruction that sprung out from the speakers.
Between sets, the crowd alternated between the Metal Stage set up by the bar where DJs spun metal songs drenched in techno beats and the Main Stage. After Linekraft’s performance, Brandon Stosuy played for a small group of people when they weren’t thrashing and dancing were bellying up the bar to get a fresh Tecate.
Godflesh bassist, G.C. Green performed for the very first time as a solo act under the moniker Vitriol. His sound was a departure from the chaos of Linekraft and instead, hypnotized the audience with his dark, lingering music. The bass shook the floor and up into the bones of listeners. They could literally feel the music he created vibrating up through the floor and into their bodies. His haunting set lasted only a half hour, but the way the audience applauded proved that they wanted more. He bowed over his stand where there was nothing but his Mac and mouthed thank you to the crowd.
Another Godflesh alum, former lead singer Justin Broadrick performed as Jesu and was accompanied by both Kelly Moran and Green. It was a set filled with repetitive and lingering instrumentals. It was at this point during the evening that a dense fog from the smoke machines had settled in a thick cloud over the audience. The strobes reflected off of the vapor while foam from cannons spurted out from above the stage, cut through the vapor and traveled slowly down to the ground. The bits that got stuck on the rafters were shaken loose by the booming guitar and subtle beats from the synthesizer.
A change of pace came in the form of Moran. Immediately after performing with Jesu, she built up her stand where she put nothing but an electric piano on its surface. The intensity of her performance was balanced with the delicate sound of the piano, but there were certain harsh tones that exploded from the keys that kept metal heads enthralled by the music.
The thrash band Power Trip played after a very short, but melodious one-song performance from Fernow’s own band Prurient. Their set began with Prurient’s last song perfectly transitioning into “Manifest Decimation” from Manifest Decimation. The once easygoing crowd transformed into a tangle of limbs where punch dancing and body slamming spread across the entire venue. For “Executioner’s Tax (Swing of the Axe)” from Nightmare Logic, the band explored their newer sound, which borrows more from hardcore punk than metal. “Conditioned to Death” felt as if it was the loudest song as the drums burst from the speakers out onto the writhing crowd. One of the best songs performed by the band was “Hammer in Doubt.” The echo of the lead singer Riley Gale’s vocals paired with the aggressive, fast tempo oscillated between punk and thrash.
The longest performance of the night came from Japanese noise band Merzbow. A calm had settled among the audience after Power Trip’s performance and was replaced with the confrontational noise of Masami Akita. People threw their fists in the air as he manipulated sounds on his mixer and computer. Some songs were more accessible than others while those that were extremely harsh plunged the listener into cognitive dissonance. One couldn’t be sure if they were listening to music or watching performance art. The visuals similar to those that appear in body horror films created a world of unease where the audience anxiously watched in wonder.
A night filled with sinister music and metal is a night well spent, and the musicians performing at Hospital Fest made sure that their listeners felt uncomfortable but also ensured that they had a space where they could explore these darker areas of music and themselves.
Photo Credit: Mehreen Rizvi