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Live Report: KMFDM, CHANT & Ravens Moreland in Los Angeles

KMFDM | Credit: Michele Brittany

KMFDM | Credit: Michele Brittany

Live at the Regent Theater in Los Angeles CA – July 23rd 2015

Written by Nicholas Diak | Photographed by Michele Brittany

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A new revolution / the ultimate war / KMFDM is back for more

 

KMFDM is certainly back in the U.S.S.A., full steam ahead on their “Salvation Tour 2015”, which encompasses 29 performances in 34 days. Returning to support the pioneers of the ultra heavy beat from their prior “We are KMFDM 2013” tour is Austin based tribal-industrial outfit, CHANT. Although many other regional bands such as Inertia, Black December, and Seven Factor are joining the tour as supporting acts in separate cities as well. The Salvation Tour 2015 kicked off in KMFDM’s prior home base of Seattle, proceeding down the coast in a counter-clockwise fashion to maximize as many performances as possible. The fifth stop on their tour was in Los Angeles at the historic Regent Theater with CHANT and Ravens Moreland as the opening bands.

The Regent Theater in downtown Los Angeles is true landmark venue that is rich in history which goes back to the 1910s. The theater was originally for Broadway productions, though it was never as opulent as other renowned L.A. theaters that would ‘spring up’ such as the art deco inspired Pantages. The Regent eventually fell on hard times, later becoming a grindhouse theater, then transitioned into an adult theater shortly afterward. Eventually, in 2014 the Regent was revitalized as a live music venue with an attached pizzeria and bar.

The Regent Theater | Credit: Michele Brittany

The Regent Theater | Credit: Michele Brittany

At 7:00pm, a line was already forming outside the Regent, whose doors would open just a shade after 8:00pm. The KMFDM tour bus was parked outside right in front of the venue’s entrance. Often times Sascha, Lucia and other crew members would enter and exit the bus to attend to personal matters, but always smiling and waving to their fans as they passed by. When the doors opened, wrist-banded patrons entered and ascended up the inclined concrete floor: at the summit, the doors opening to reveal the spacious venue proper. On the left flank was the merch booths while on the right was the all-important bar, dispensing as much alcohol as possible that would either find its way into a patron’s gut, or tossed to the ground after being accidentally slammed by mosh pit denizens. Though the theater was only illuminated by an eerie red glow, the stage and its vintage proscenium arch was still majestic to behold. In the back, a large KMFDM Salvation banner dominated the rear wall, though it would stay mostly in the shadows during the first two acts. The audience was a sea of black, with nearly everyone sporting a KMFDM t-shirt. Though there were more men than ladies in attendance, it was amazing to see all age groups represented: original fans from the 1990s to fresh faced young folks in their early twenties. Though KMFDM arguably had their critical and commercial peak during those halcyon years, seeing such a crowd is a testament that the progenitors of industrial-rock are able to maintain classic fans and woo new ones.

Both KMFDM and CHANT had merch booths setup near the venue’s entrance. CHANT had a wide array of items: shirts, CDs, USB sticks, stickers, boxsets and bundles. KMFDM did not offer any CDs, instead sticking to just clothing, including tour T-shirts, a corset worn by Lucia and special camouflage shirts made by Kapt’n K himself. The lack of the new Salvation EP may have been due to unavoidable shipping delays the official KMFDM Facebook page kept fans abreast of. Ravens Moreland did not have a merch booth, however, front man Bruce Moreland did inform the audience near the end of their set that all their music could be found on CDBaby and iTunes.

Ravens Moreland | Credit: Michele Brittany

Ravens Moreland | Credit: Michele Brittany

The first band to take the stage was local act, Ravens Moreland. The band is headed by Bruce Moreland, known for his 1980s output from being a member of Wall of Voodoo and his songwriting contributions to Concrete Blonde’s Bloodletting album. Joining him on stage were his two partners in crime: Linda LeSabre (who had done percussion work with My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult in the 1990s) who was now on upright drums while Tara Belle was up front for bass guitar duties.

Moreland describes how his band came to be part of the night’s performance:

“Our show with KMFDM came about when Liz Garo (the booker for The Regent /Echo/Echoplex) called me and asked if we’d be interested in opening for KMFDM. She thought it would be a good mix; we had played with My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult (who are good friends of mine) at her other venue, The Echoplex in LA. Originally it was just our two bands and we had a 50 minute set scheduled. However a month later we where informed that KMFDM was bringing another band, CHANT, and we would have our set cut short. We almost didn’t do the show at that point, but after a few days decided to proceed and [we] cut the set to 35 minutes to accommodate. I had never met the KMFDM people but they seemed very cool and loved the band and of course they are all familiar with my past work in Wall of Voodoo and Nervous Gender as well as Linda LeSabre’s work with My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult. It was also nice to have Marz of Thrill Kill Kult in attendance as well.”

Perhaps by design or by happenstance, Ravens Moreland turned out to be an ideal opening act for KMFDM. The Thrill Kill Kult vibe was strong in the air around their performance: their general sound was that at a moment’s notice they could have easily broken into a cover version of “After the Flesh” and it would have been well received. Visually, Bruce Moreland was sporting a stylish pointed cowboy hat that perhaps evoked a little bit of Al Jourgensen of Ministry. As KMFDM would be playing classic songs from their library, having Ravens Moreland and their old-school sound really recreated that feeling which concertgoers would have felt during the golden era of Wax Trax-dominated industrialism.

Ravens Moreland | Credit: Michele Brittany

Ravens Moreland | Credit: Michele Brittany

The band played a small set of eight songs, but it was well-blended mixture of drums that carried the momentum of an incoming train with early 90s industrial-bar-rock. At one point, bassist Belle stepped out of view for the song “Yeah That’s Me” to add some theatrics. Moreland explained that, “She does that to add some drama to the song on the chorus since there is a pulsing synth bass throughout the song and she can just look cool and sexy which people seem to enjoy, I know I do.”

The band also debuted three tracks from their upcoming album with their unfortunately short set:

“Mercy,’ ‘This Hell’ and ‘Yeah That’s Me’ are all on the new album SiX although ‘Yeah That’s Me’ is already available on download as a single. I’ve got a Go Fund Me campaign going right now to raise the money to release it on vinyl, we still have a few months to go but in the mean time I will probably release the album digitally for download in the next few weeks, it really is our best album yet. ‘Mercy’ is written about the income disparity here in Los Angeles where the wealthy never have to experience the pain of everyday living of the working poor, we depend on those people to employ or give opportunity to those living right next to them in poverty, yet they turn a blind eye. It’s about the struggles of families with single mothers. ‘This Hell’ is about the greed in this country and around the world, the people who have power and use it to screw others and how karma will some day turn the tables on them to make them feel the pain they have inflicted on others. My songs vary from kink, sex and debauchery, to social injustice and politics, and also my experience from years of heroin abuse and jail time after my Wall of Voodoo years.”

Though attendees were still pouring in and the venue was not quite at its full capacity, the crowd which gathered at the stage for Ravens Moreland showed their appreciation for the band by clapping and hollering between songs. Moreland reflects fondly on his band’s performance that night:

“On stage the audience seemed to really enjoy us despite many never hearing us in the past, I know we surprised a hell of a lot of people from what I heard from audience members after the show. Our music really is hard to put a finger or genre on: our music could fit with audiences from punk, industrial, post-punk, psychobilly. It’s different in song structure than a lot of other bands, it’s hypnotic, not a lot of highs and lows, we just suck you in with a tribal hypnotic hammer until you want to go home and put on some latex and spank your partner. People tell me they have unusual sex often after seeing us play.”

Ravens Moreland Set List:

01) Voodoo Rattle Snake
02) Mercy
03) Lord of Flies
04) California Death Star
05) This Hell
06) Yeah That’s Me
07) On Your Knees
08) Asphalt Roaming Low 4-Seaters

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Shortly after Ravens Moreland ended their set, the crew came on to begin dismantling their gear and installing CHANT’s gear. Some notable items included: large multi-drum sets, along with many LED light stands and fixtures. You could tell CHANT has a significant cult following, as there was much fanfare from the audience as they were hollering for the band as they were coming on.

CHANT | Credit: Michele Brittany

CHANT | Credit: Michele Brittany

For this incarnation, CHANT was composed of three members: Bradley Bills as the front man with Kristopher Robin and Alvin Melivin playing a myriad number of instruments. At a moment’s notice, all three would be on the drums at the same time, or switching back and forth between other instruments as they saw fit. It was quite impressive to see CHANT successfully juggle so many instruments and functions at the same time, alongside an equally as impressive LED light show. This is a band about light theatrics, and not just the standard strobes or stage lighting. The LED fixtures which were set up emitted different patterns, colors and speeds which really complimented the music. As the venue filled up with their smoke machine, the lights became even more remarkable as phosphorescent glows oozed over the crowd. The lights had a brief malfunction during an early song in the band’s set, forcing CHANT to play in total darkness for a few moments. Despite this small setback, the band played flawlessly, and in a way, still remained eerie in pitch black darkness.

The theatrics also extended to the band’s garb. For example, Bradley Bills was wearing an open soldier shirt with dirt and grime stuck to him. He looked like a soldier during the Vietnam war who had just crawled out of a smoldering wreckage, or perhaps even a ghost due to the white patches of paint on his face and neck. On the other hand, Robin stuck to a more tribal looking face paint. All three members omitted a strong stage presence, with Bills being the most dominant through the medium of his intense singing and drum work. The music was drum heavy industrialism which really pulsated both aurally in the music, but visually from the LEDs, providing a more modern or avant-garde approach than what Ravens Moreland and KMFDM would be playing, though very much complimentary to both acts. For this performance, CHANT was defiantly the most successful band of the three and had left the best impression.

CHANT | Credit: Michele Brittany

CHANT | Credit: Michele Brittany

CHANT’s (Partial) Set List:

01) Brave New Apocalypse
02) ?
03) ?
04) Adoration
05) ?
06) All the Same
07) Revolt
08) Point and Click
09) Blood + Peace
10) Create to Destroy

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At 11:00 pm, the iconic opening fanfare of “Money” began to blare, announcing KMFDM had taken the stage. Hearing such a vintage sound, the audience went crazy. The band came on stage one-by-one during the introduction, save Lucia who would appear during the second song “Light”. Jules Hodgson on guitar would point at and then egg-on different audience members, his position being stage left while Steve White took stage right. Sascha Konietzko and Lucia Cifarelli took the center behind their custom podiums with Andy Selway on the drums in the far back under the Salvation banner. Sascha would stand mostly in the center of the stage while Lucia would hunker down and lean into the audience seductively.

KMFDM | Credit: Michele Brittany

KMFDM | Credit: Michele Brittany

KMFDM had everything going for them during their performance: amazing set list, stage presence, multi-colored stage lights, audience interaction, fantastic music, fans excited to see them, a lively mosh pit – everything except for vocals. While all the guitars, electronics and percussion work came through the sound system perfectly, the vocals were not audible at all. This exact same issue occurred four years ago when KMFDM played at the Anaheim Grove during their tour to support their WTF?! album. This means that local fans that were treated to a sub-par show then had to endure it yet again during this tour.

This lack of vocals is near criminal for KMFDM’s set list was nothing short of phenomenal. Instead of focusing their performance to promote songs off their newest album, Our Time Will Come, KMFDM elected to concentrate on their recently celebrated 30 year anniversary. This was a wise decision, as it allowed the band to revisit some classic songs from their heyday that had not been performed live in quite some time. There were, of course, concert staples: “A Drug Against War,” “Godlike,” and “Light”, along with new songs as “Shake the Cage,” “Brainwashed,” and KMFDM’s newest anthem “Salvation”. The reappearance of many forgotten songs, such as “Son of a Gun,” “Money,” and “Waste” were indeed a treat, but sadly not realized to their full potential due to the lack of the vocals being projected through the sound system. It was extremely embarrassing to see Sascha bring out his megaphone to yell the words of “Terror” into it, only to have nothing come out.

KMFDM | Credit: Michele Brittany

KMFDM | Credit: Michele Brittany

After a set of 17 songs, KMFDM left the stage to tease the audience for the inevitable encore. After a few minutes of the crowd shouting “KMFDM sucks!” the band returned to close the evening with “Waste” and “Godlike”. At some previous performances on the tour, the band had also been playing “Adios”, but that was not on the docket for their L.A. performance. Ironically, the vocals seemed to have been fixed during the brief intermission, as “Waste” started blaring with vocals in full force. Too little, too late however.

The concert ended at 12:30am and the patrons filed out the front doors. Many folks were still reveling in excitement and adrenaline after their show, expressing their pleasure and merriment. There were also murmurs of disappointment among others, with some shaking their heads and grumbling rightly so about the sound issues. This is unfortunate, as a large majority of fans should have left more fulfilled, especially at the possibility that this could be KMFDM’s last tour in America. The band’s Facebook and Twitter accounts vocalized at the start of the tour their displeasure at dealing with U.S. government agencies and hinted it could be their final excursion stateside.

It is hopeful that other stops on KMFDM’s tour are more successful and fans get the shows they deserve, but for the Los Angeles crowd, they certainly did not receive the classic German engineering, astounding ingenuity, and over three decades of conceptual continuity.

KMFDM | Credit: Michele Brittany

KMFDM | Credit: Michele Brittany

 

KMFDM’s Set List:

01) Money
02) Light
03) Ultra
04) Rebels in Kontrol
05) Tohuvabohu
06) Shake the Cage
07) Son of a Gun
08) Last Things
09) Brainwashed
10) Animal Out
11) Terror
12) Salvation
13) Megalomaniac
14) WWIII
15) Amnesia
16) Hau Ruck
17) A Drug Against War

Encore

18) Waste
19) Godlike