January 7, 2017 | UNION | Los Angeles, CA
Written by Nicholas Diak | Photographed by Michele Brittany
The first week into a brand new year was already off to an excellent start for American synthwave fans. Legendary French synthwave act, Perturbator begin their first North American tour in the first week of January, playing a series of shows on the west coast in Seattle, Los Angeles and San Francisco before making their way east to Chicago, New York City, Montreal and concluding in Boston. Joining Perturbator for the west coast stops is another prominent synthwave outfit, GosT. What follows is a concert report of both projects’ performance in Los Angeles on Saturday, January 7th.
The concert was held at the Union Nightclub, west of downtown Los Angeles on Pico Blvd. A fitting location for a Perturbator show, in that the movie The Terminator has an iconic scene in the fictitious Technoir night club, right on Pico Blvd and of course, Perturbator has a song called, “Technoir” complete with samples from said film. The venue was huge: multi-story, multi-roomed, multiple bars everywhere. The magenta neon-signage directing folks to the different rooms only added to the (incidental) outrun aesthetics for the show. For all purposes, for this night, The Union was the Technoir.
The concert itself ran immaculately. When the doors scheduled to open at 9:00 pm, they were actually opened on the dot without delay. Security was in the queue to ID attendees and marking the underage kids with Xs on their hands to keep them nice and x-straight-edge-x, but also to keep the line moving swiftly. The show properly took place in the Union’s upstairs disco room, a huge dance hall with a full bar, elevated wall seating around the circumference, and even bottle service. A swag table was set up outside in the loft room, with only a few GosT releases for sale, but a treasure-trove of Perturbator CDs, vinyl and a new Metropolis-inspired T-shirt. The show started at 10:30pm and thankfully without any filler acts, as this was a night to focus on two of the seminal pillar acts of the synthwave genre. GosT entered the stage after an intro of synthesized, evil chanting and proceeded into his hard-hitting masterpiece, “Maleficarum.” The GosT stage setup was fairly minimal: a cloth covered table with his equipment and accompanying lights from the venue’s stage. However. GosT himself was extremely animated: jumping up and down, rapidly bobbing his head, launching himself from the speakers, blowing kisses, and strutting up to the front row to high five and interact with his audience. At one point an attendee assumed he could do the same, got up on stage, jumped from the speaker and promptly injured his leg and had to be pulled offstage by security.
There is a significance about the whole performance: GosT himself dressed in all black with his sinister skull mask, dancing with wanton abandon, as if he were conjuring his music from his equipment. This echoes a great lineage of the ‘skeleton dance.’ From the Camille Saint-Saëns poem Danse Macabre (based on text from Henri Cazalis), to Georges Méliès’s silents L’Antre des Esprits (1901) and Le Monstre (1903) to the Walt Disney cartoon The Skeleton Dance (1929), there is an actual history rooted in this occult performance by GosT and not just simple dancing, retrowave theatrics. The comparison, intentional or not, is extremely apropos. GosT played a gamut of songs from his catalog, with some favourites of Non Paradisi including “Arise” and “Lake of Fire” before ending his set at 11:20 to a satisfied crowd.
At 11:45pm, Perturbator took the stage and launched into “Neo-Tokyo” followed by “Disco Inferno.” His set focused mainly on content from Dangerous Days and The Uncanny Valley, including songs (roughly in the following order) “Raw Power,” “She’s Young She’s Beautiful She’s Next,” “Diabolus Ex Machina,” “Future Club,” “Satanic Rites,” “Complete Domination,” “She Moves like a Knife,” “Humans are such easy Prey,” “Venger” and “Weapons for Children.” However, the club friendly song “Technoir” from I am the Night made an appearance early in the set, making it a fulfilling and dense playlist.
While GosT was overt and animated in his performance, Perturbator was concise and reserved. He didn’t interact with the audience, save an occasional head bow while looking sinister from behind his hoodie, however he had additional theatrics in the form of LED lights set up behind him. The lightshow that went with the rumbling synthwave was a huge compliment to the performance: if one wasn’t deafened by the electro beats, they were blinded by the strobes. The BPM on many songs was increased and the floor quaked from the music as well as the dancing bodies. If there was a word to describe Perturbator’s set, it would be relentless – there were no pauses between songs and they all flowed together without a moment to catch one’s breath. This was an endurance. Perturbator ended their set a little before midnight. After the crowd chanting “One more song!” he reappeared to perform “Welcome Back” and “Perturbator’s Theme” from Dangerous Days as the encore before departing the stage as ominously as he had arrived.
An excellent performance from both acts, there is no doubt why both Perturbator and GosT are lauded the way they are: their studio output is immaculate and their live shows are engaging and raw. This evening at The Union was a testament to both project’s artistry.