NON / Awen / Steel Hook Prosthesis
It’s no secret that Boyd Rice, Death In June, Blood Axis and similar artists performances are regularly met with protest, if not completely shut down, by the purveyors of what I like to call “Tumblr Justice”. The supposed anti-fascists, protecting society from the evils of the Industrial and NeoFolk scenes, blockading shows by emailing venues from the comfort of their laptops because hey, this music is the real problem with the world. Those warriors of social justice that want to decide what is best for us to read, to hear and to see…sort of a “Fascists Against Fascism”, if you will. Besides, taking a stand against the real ills of society can be dangerous, and you might get your hands dirty. This show was no different. The event was originally intended to be open to everyone, but in the typical fashion stated above, it was quickly apparent that it wasn’t going to work. As it’s come to pass in the Land of the Free, the few decide what is right for the many. Kudos to the promoters for not giving in, but instead hiring a private hall and making this a secret, “invite only” event. And accolades to those in attendance for making sure it stayed that way. So I’ll step down from the soapbox now, but one last thing to get off of my chest. I wish the AntiFa elite could take the time to see who actually attends one of these shows. I enjoyed the company of folks from diverse ethnic backgrounds, sexual orientations, those barely old enough to hit the bar, a some a few steps from the mausoleum. NeoFolkers, Punks, Goths, Metalheads, a shimmering rainbow of misfits and malcontents, all enjoying the company of one another, a tangible excitement running through the hall in anticipation of the nights events.
Arriving promptly as the doors opened, I was immediately greeted by the sounds of local Dallas DJ Oliver Sheppard. Between sets and throughout the night, we were treated to an eclectic mix of Punk, Post Punk, NeoFolk, Goth and some amazing left field numbers, some of them requested by Boyd himself. The Partridge Family, Bobby Sherman and the Poppy Family, I’ve already begun my search for some of these obscure gems. It was fantastic and blended perfectly with nights happenings. I had the pleasure of catching up with some old friends, and some “in the flesh” meetings of those I’d only known through social media. There were folks from all over the globe in attendance, from the Canadian Syndicate, to as far away as Germany. First to take the stage were longtime Texas comrades Steel Hook Prosthesis. I’ve seen this duo six or seven times over the years at various events and they never fail to blow me away. Like two demolition men arriving on the job, they immediately get down to business. They slowly and meticulously destroy the room, then pack up their bags and disappear into the night. Larry Kerr handles the electronics, sandblasting your senses with horrific Death Industrial and Dark Ambient bedlam. John Stillings is an imposing figure in a normal setting. I’m guessing somewhere in the 6’6″ – 7″ range, but on stage, covered in tattoos and looking like he may rupture an artery at any moment with his vocal performance, well, he’s scary as fuck. Incorporate some surgical videos projected as a backdrop, and it’s pretty hellish. They delivered an intense 30 minutes or so set that left us reeling.
Next up was the man of the hour, Mr. Boyd Rice. He spoke briefly with those in attendance and then treated us to a premiere of his new film, a rapid fire slide show of Boyd’s unique photography. To this day he’s never given any hints on how his amazing works are created. To accompany the film, Boyd played a few cords of a violin, sampled and looped them with whatever magic box he uses, and walked off stage, leaving the audience to soak in the film. Paired with the audio, it was completely hypnotic. The Gods love ya if you suffer from epilepsy, because I’m pretty sure you’d be foaming at the mouth the first two minutes in. It seemed fairly short, but I really have no idea on how much time elapsed. I felt a little drugged and off balance when it ended, but I’m sure that’s the intent. It was more of a right of passage than a performance.
Texas NeoFolk act Awen was next to take the stage. Alright, so I might be a bit biased, I count most of the members amongst my friends, but I feel as a writer I can still look at things objectively. Awen is a project that continues to mature and improve with each incarnation. I have to say that this is the best I’ve seen, and this was one of their top performances. Always an amazing live act, the husband and wife team of Erin and Katrin Powell never fail to be visually stunning, and Katrin’s angelic voice forever brings balance to the harsher militant aspects of the band. Per Nilsson provides the ambient electronic foundation as well as samples. The addition of Wes Radvansky of Black Metallers Krigsgrav on guitar has been exemplary, adding a folkier element to the sound. This was my first chance to witness the band with piper Glenn Bailey on a few songs. There’s something about the bagpipes that makes you want to pick up a sword and march into the streets. Like every instance I’ve had the pleasure to witness them, Awen were an emotional and heartfelt tour de force. Nothing quite captures this band like experiencing them live.
Finally Boyd Rice took the stage as NON. For me, the anticipation was an entity unto itself. I’d guess for most of us in attendance, it was our first and only chance of seeing a man that for a lot of us is a living legend, actually perform live. Witnessing a true pioneer of Industrial music and an icon of underground culture, you could say I was looking forward to it. His set began with a short slide show of intimate photos of Boyd through the years, with various partners in crime: Douglas P., Rose McDowall and Michael Moynihan to name a few. Each song was accompanied by a visual projection as well. While seeing Boyd live for the first time, I’ve witnessed several recordings, and the man lived up to what I’ve come to expect: maximum damage with minimal equipment. All delivered with the ease of a professional whose probably forgotten more than most of us will ever know of true, Industrial music. Everything I’d hoped to hear was offered: Everlasting Fire, Out Out Out and of course, Total War. After a brief intermission, Boyd returned to the stage, this time joined by Awen, for a rendition of “People”. The whole set was presented with the confidence and ease that only comes from nearly 40 years of experience.
Boyd hung around well after the show was over to chat with fans, pose for photos and sign autographs. The man is completely humble, down to earth and engaging with his fans. Also worth noting were several merchandise items that were created especially for the night: a poster, a patch and a limited edition NON 7″. It was just one a few of the many touches that made this something beyond a mere show, but that of event. My heartfelt thanks to all of those involved. So support underground artists, promoters and events in your area. Be open-minded, but ever vigilant. Turn on CNN any day of the week. There are many injustices in the world, many of them worthy of our ire. Music, regardless of the genre, is not one of them. I’ll paraphrase one of the show’s promoters and organizers, Erin Powell of Awen:
Never stop fighting…
Thanks as well to those that allowed the use of their photos: Brandi, Carol, Carsten, Heather, Larry & Oliver. And to Dataset for the video I’ve posted below. The article wouldn’t have been the same without you.