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:CONCERT REVIEW: PIG – AMERICAN EXCESS TOUR 2016 – SEPTEMBER 13, 2016 – YBOR CITY, FL

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PIG, En Esch, Peter Turns Pirate
Concert Date:  September 13, 2016
Venue:  Crowbar
Location:  Ybor City, FL

Review by William Nesbitt
Professor of English
Beacon College, http://www.beaconcollege.edu

Ybor is one of the best places to see live music—rock, rap, jazz, traditional Spanish music, and gothic/industrial/EBM/futurepop/synthwave/and so forth.  It’s a tightly knit scene.  You can eat, drink, and walk the streets in your concert and club wear and not feel out of place among the civilians.  The Ritz, The Orpheum, and Crowbar regularly showcase scene musicians—some of whom run after show DJ sets at The Castle.  We sprang for the VIP meet and greet at $50 a shot.  We hung out on the sidewalk in front of Crowbar watching the roosters of Ybor strutting around in the street, fluffing their feathers, flapping their wings, yelling out, and chasing each other.  We could hear some soundchecking coming from somewhere inside the Crowbar.  It was the usual varied assortment of folks from high-fashioned and longtime scenesters to younger folks who had recently discovered KMFDM and the works of associated members.

After a little while someone came, checked our names off a list, and checked us in.  The VIP packages had sold out and were limited to 15.  We were handed our lanyards and badges and officially, according to the badges, became Very Important Pigs.  The swag bags came next and they included a poster and a limited edition CD.  Special t-shirts were supposed to be part of it, but something delayed their production.  No swine before its time, I suppose.  PIG, however, stayed true to their word and did mail them later.  Someone at the merchandise booth let us know that he had some very rare items available (e.g., a copy of an album of which only five editions exist of that version).  There was an option to buy, but no pressure to buy.  We all then were directed to a courtyard and there the members of PIG awaited us.

For this tour PIG consists of Raymond Watts, Gunter Schulz, and En Esch, who together once formed much of the core of KMFDM.  Rounding out the triad are Galen Waling on drums and former Combichrist member Z. Marr on synth.  Realizing that we had plenty of time to peruse the merchandise booth, we seized the opportunity to be first and went ahead outside to start the line.      

Although Raymond was the main point of attention, making initial contact and greeting all of us, everyone else was there at the table and happy to pose for pictures, talk, and sign items.  The last time we saw Raymond was at the Masquerade in Atlanta while KMFDM was on the World War III tour.  He appeared in a silver jumpsuit with scraggly hair underneath a cowboy hat and looked a bit bloated.  “It’s Raymond fucking Watts,” someone announced.  Despite a great stage and vocal performance, I’m not sure how healthy he was at the time.  We told him about this memory and he kind of laughed and said he’d dropped a lot of his unhealthy habits.  I can’t remember if the word rehab came up or not, but he said he quit drinking and that one reason he didn’t tour as much was that drinking became a way to fill the boredom between performances. 

The Raymond in front of us dressed in less flashy attire, looked much leaner and healthier, a definite transformation.  The swine mighty.  I continue to hold out, to pray, for another KMFDM album with Raymond on it, so I asked about the possibility thereof.  Essentially, he said he had done his thing with KMFDM, didn’t see a need to go back, and is enjoying what he does now.  He sounded neither resentful nor nostalgic about the past.  He seemed satisfied with and respectful about his past with KMFDM, but more interested in what’s happening now.  He signed a few items and even drew a customized design by request on our CDs.  We moved along, sat a couple of tables away, and watched everyone else.  Raymond was witty, funny, and classy, making good on his offer to “indulge in delightful and delicate conversation.” He and everyone else signed stuff endlessly—some people brought stacks of LPs—and took as many pictures as the fans wanted.  They joked, they smiled, they conversed, they hung out.  After meeting with everyone they then excused themselves to go to dinner. 

There exists debate about VIP packages:  some people think they are great and some think they are a rip-off.  This was money well spent and I have spent far more on packages in which I got less swag, nothing signed, no picture opportunity, and my first glimpse of the band was when they came onstage for the main audience.  The PIG VIP was a great deal for us—totally happy with it.  

Completely there for PIG, I was unfamiliar with the opening act, Peter Turns Pirate.  While the set didn’t cause me to hunt down his music or learn more about him after the show, the music is completely listenable and better than a lot of the unfamiliar (to me) groups I encounter opening for the main act.  En Esch was the middle act.  The last time we saw him was over a decade ago in Tallahassee.  His Ybor performance was more nuanced and less angry, not necessarily better or worse, just different.  He seemed to have gained weight since I last saw him, but then again I have too, so maybe’s that’s enough said about that.  En Esch gave roughly equal coverage to his solo albums, Slick Idiot work, and KMFDM tunes, devoting two to three songs to each category.  He played “Friede,” “Hallelujah,” and “Go to Hell” from the KMFDM catalog.  My favorite song was “Merci Beaucoup” from Slick Idiot.  The house began to fill up though it was still not packed.  It was a Tuesday night and as someone speculated, “if it was a Friday night, this place would be packed.”

We might call PIG a supergroup of sorts and sometimes with supergroups the parts are greater than the sum.  Not so in this case.  This lineup is crushing.  Galen kills the drums with desperation and intensity.  One of the things I really appreciate about En Esch and Raymond Watts is that they bring a sense of theater and drama to their performances through body motion, arm and hand gestures, and facial expressions; they have definitely given thought to the physical aspect of the performance.  Gunter, like En Esch, plays in both bands, and while he doesn’t bring the same sense of theatricality to his performance he executes his guitar lines flawlessly.  They came out in pig masks and started with “The Diamond Sinners” which acted as a summons for the congregation to come to church and hear the electronic gospel.  We sin and we are saved.  The music redeems us. 

PIG moved through the setlist and devoted four songs, about a quarter of their stage time, to KMFDM covers—three from Nihil (“Brute,” “Flesh,” and “Juke Joint Jezebel”) plus “Conillon.” I appreciate that they didn’t turn their back on the KMFDM legacy, but also didn’t turn themselves into a KMFDM cover band resting on their laurels and chasing past glories.  Fans want to hear some of these legacy songs mixed into the PIG set.  They didn’t do anything radical with the arrangements of the KMFDM songs and that’s just fine.  Six of their seventeen songs were devoted to the most recent release, The Gospel, including “Diamond Sinners,” “Found in Filth,” “Toleration or Truth,” “Missing the Mainline,” “Viva Evil,” and “The Fly Upon the Pin.” Thus, they followed the trend of weighting their set in favor of their current release.  This is not necessarily criticism, just an observation.  Ultimately, whether this is a good or a bad thing depends on how keen you are on the new album.  And with a catalog stretching back to 1988 without even getting into KMFDM’s deep back catalog, there is no way to develop a perfect setlist that will make everyone happy.  The set closed with a fierce “Find It, Fuck It, Forget It.” I was not disappointed.  They moved great, they looked great, and, most importantly, they sounded great.

(Special notice given to the older woman who filmed the whole show with a handheld video recorder that looked to be of a 1990s vintage.) 

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