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:Retrowerks: Triton Festival 2013 – Night 1 – September 5, 2013 – NYC, NY

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Triton Festival 2013 – Night 1
September 5, 2013
New York, NY @ Gramercy Theatre

Review by Maresa Whitehead

They came from across the country and across the seas. Fans and bands from the likes of the Netherlands, the UK, Canada, Baltimore, Orlando, Pittsburgh, L.A., and innumerable places in between descended upon New York City as pilgrims to Mecca. What could draw such a vast array of cyberdreads and corsets, combat boots and bondage straps, black eyeliner and backcombed hair from its usual realms of lurking? The much-anticipated return of Triton Festival, of course!

After a three-year hiatus, Triton Festival rose from the dead when VampireFreaks founder Jet Berelson finally gave in to requests for the resurrection of the largest celebration of goth/industrial music, clothing, and culture in the United States. And so it was that 20 bands, over 15 DJs, a handful of vendors of jewelry and crafts, and hundreds of dark-minded devotees conglomerated in Manhattan on September 5th, 6th, and 7th for the second-ever Triton Fest. With bands playing and DJs spinning from 8:00 PM to 4:00 AM each night, plus several extra-curricular Triton Fest activities such as a pre-party and a barbecue, the long weekend was crammed chock-full of events designed to darken and exhaust the souls of rivetheads, goths, and the merely-curious alike.

Triton Fest premiered on Thursday, September 5th at Gramercy Theatre. The double-level venue was thoughtfully utilized. The club-like lower level featured a small dance floor and gave the DJs power to shine, while the upper level stage was devoted to the headlining acts of the evening. The vendors were set up around the edges of the upper-level room, allowing for customers to peruse selections even while watching their favorite bands onstage. Two bars were on either side of the general admission standing area, and stadium seating at the back of the level gave festival goers the opportunity to rest their legs with an overview of the entire space. The lower level of the venue also featured some seating and a bar. The intimate, dimly lit club was surprisingly untarnished by the booming music and stomping dancers right above its ceiling.

Originally, NYC’s own Candy Brain was supposed to open the festival, but the band had to unfortunately pull out. Instead, Arizona’s Alter Der Ruine had the pleasure of being the first act to play. ADR featured three members onstage—vocalist Michael Treveloni, keyboardist Tamara Jenney, and drummer Michael Jenney. The live drums provided heavy beats that could not be ignored as they echoed in the chest cavities of the relatively small audience which had arrived this early in the evening. ADR put on a solid, energetic show that highlighted their brand of industrial. Though their sound was a bit less all-consuming than that of some of the other bands through no fault of their own (that means you, attending audio engineer!), ADR should be commended for maintaining their passion and energy when the audience had yet to warm up. It can be difficult to be an opening act, especially for such a plethora of bands to come over the next hours and days, but ADR held their own and were certainly not forgettable. In fact, by the end of their set, members of the audience were clapping enthusiastically to the beat of the last song as their glow sticks ignited their otherwise all-black bodies in illumination.

Next on stage was NYC’s military-inspired FGFC820. Vocalist Rexx Arkana, guitarist Dräcos, and keyboardist Jenni stormed the stage with their harsh EBM. Their anthem choruses and political lyrics pumped through the crowd, keeping dreads swinging and black latex paint sweating down skin. Arkana had a commanding stage presence, oftentimes saluting the audience or quickly swigging from a flask. In between songs, he opened up to the crowd as if it were an intimate group, spreading his opinions on Syria, his daughter, and his divorce. FGFC820 was undoubtedly a hometown favorite, and onlookers sang at the top of their lungs into the microphone which Arkana held out to them.

Nachtmahr flew in from Austria and were just the act to follow in FGFC820’s wake. Vocalist Thomas Rainer paired with Brendin Ross (of Frontal Boundary fame) in front of a projection screen which featured videos and words throughout their act. Rainer unleashed his “Imperial Austrian Industrial” on a pulse of bodies bouncing in tandem. His large personality was especially apparent when he specifically addressed the infamous 2012 Kinetik Festival incident in which Ad.Ver.Sary bemoaned the fact that acts such as Nachtmahr and Combichrist prolong violent and misogynistic themes through their lyrics and imagery. “Why do we have sexy naked chicks?” Rainer asked, “Because I can!” Still, Rainer took the time to discuss the current state of the music scene, instructing fans to stick together to keep it alive. While Nachtmahr’s sound was intense and impeccable, the projection of old cartoons, black & white images, and political quotations behind the band was a bit distracting. Still, it was interesting to hear Nachtmahr’s music while reading relevant quotes from the likes of Aldous Huxley, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Friedrich Weiss. It provided context, along with Rainer’s explanations of what the songs were about, and ultimately gave the band a poignant and undeniable aesthetic for any audience members who hadn’t happened upon them before.

Seattle’s Assemblage 23 took center stage next. Tom Shear emerged to deafening cheers, clearly an icon in front of his adoring fans. It was a pleasure that Shear featured a live drummer, whose beats added weight to the undeniably light poppiness of A23’s sound. Though some may disagree, Shear did not seem to be at his best that night. His voice was a bit off-key, especially noticeable due to A23’s signature clear vocals. However, the audience was fervent and seemed unbothered by any sound quality issues as its members sang and danced to their favorite songs.

Florida’s darkwave darlings The Crüxshadows headlined the first night of Triton Fest. The group had notably evocative costumes featuring carnival-inspired black-and-white stripes and burlesque-inspired skirts. The five-member group consisted of two electric violinists, a drummer, a synth player, and Rogue on vocals. There were also two stage dancers who had clearly practiced their routines and used props such as fan veils, providing ethereal silk movements which complemented the music. Rogue wore black fingerless gloves containing lights, which made it seem as though he was holding small suns in the palms of his hands. The electric violins featured lasers on their heads, so that as the violinists bounced and danced while they played, their lasers shot around the room. The Crüxshadows’ positive lyrics echoed through Gramercy Theatre as Rogue connected deeply with the audience, even lifting himself on a stool in the middle of the pit, using fans’ hands to steady him. When they played “Birthday,” Rogue and the dancers produced large black trash bags filled with Crüxshadows shirts, which they threw into the audience while chanting “happy birthday.”

After The Crüxshadows finished, the crowd greatly thinned. It was nearly 3:00 AM, and many people, including me, didn’t stick around for the last band of the evening, Unter Null. In fact, some people probably didn’t realize Unter Null was playing, and I never found out if Unter Null actually appeared or not when I questioned people on the following days. The audience was exhausted, albeit tranquil, and had to rest for the next two nights of mayhem to come. They trickled out of Gramercy Theatre, piling into cabs or sauntering down the street; smoking on their way back to hotels, apartments, or late-night eateries across NYC, sweaty and satiated by the fantastic first night of Triton Festival.

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