1. Gather a whole slew of Musicians, Performers, Artists, etc.
2. Promote the hell out of the gathering!
3. Proceed to Destroy the Universe!
At the edge of Berkeley miles of dilapidated Factories, Wherehouses, and Junkyards fill the immediate area like a post-apocalyptic playground, and Walking into The Shipyard in Berkeley is somewhat like walking into the Oil Refinery Colony in George Miller's The Road Warrior. It's a large open air space that is surrounded by large shipping containers, and strewn with metallic objects, decaying vehicles, workshops, and rusty iron sculptures. Truly an Industrial Shangri-La set in the heart of the wasteland known as West Oakland/Emeryville. This would be the location of the end of the Universe.....
However I'm getting ahead of myself. Perhaps a bit of
background info is in order?
I had heard about this event called "How to Destroy the Universe" last
year, and while it sounded interesting enough, I wasn't really sure what it was
all about? Then a few months ago I received an e-mail from "Ethan Port" (one of
the founders of "Mobilization Records" key member of "F-Space" and Post-Punk
legends "Savage Republic") asking if we would be interested in writing a review
of the upcoming "How to Destroy the Universe Festival (Part 2)" being held at
the Shipyard in Berkeley. I was not only interested in writing this review, but
I also volunteered my services as one of the DJ's and offered to co-present the
event. This years festival was to commemorate "Hiroshima Day" and as a closing
to last years "Pearl Harbor" day theme.
I had heard about this event called "How to Destroy the Universe" last year, and while it sounded interesting enough, I wasn't really sure what it was all about? Then a few months ago I received an e-mail from "Ethan Port" (one of the founders of "Mobilization Records" key member of "F-Space" and Post-Punk legends "Savage Republic") asking if we would be interested in writing a review of the upcoming "How to Destroy the Universe Festival (Part 2)" being held at the Shipyard in Berkeley. I was not only interested in writing this review, but I also volunteered my services as one of the DJ's and offered to co-present the event. This years festival was to commemorate "Hiroshima Day" and as a closing to last years "Pearl Harbor" day theme.
The lineup for the first night is what really grabbed my attention. Local artists the "Sixteens", and "Black Ice" were scheduled to open the show, and "F-Space" was to headline the first night. However upon arrival I found out that the Sixteens had cancelled, so I got to take their time slot and DJ before Black Ice took the stage and kicked everyone's ass! Oakland's Black Ice have been one of my favorite local acts for the past few years. At this show they opened with a couple of eerie ambient/noise pieces using all kinds of found sounds, and even the inclusion of a violin. Halfway through Black Ice's performance the generators in the shipyard died cutting the electricity and what would have been quite annoying at any other show, proved to be quite appealing at this one. As the lack of electricity lead the crowd to start making their own noises using bits of scrap metal, and various objects found around the Shipyard. Yours truly even took to Black Ice's floor tom to pound out some rhythms. It really captured the essence of a tribal gathering which is exactly what the show was. When the power was restored Black Ice pummeled the audience with some of their more recent upbeat Deathrock/Post-Punk tracks. By far one of their best performances yet!
Between Bands various Performance art pieces and videos were shown, including my personal favorite. The Egeria Fire Fountain. Egeria is a three tiered fountain with a thin layer of flammable liquid floating at the surface to cause the water to ignite. Dancing flames pour off each tier and recycle at the bottom in large containers. The crowd is encouraged to play with the flames as the water keeps the heat from burning the skin. Quite an ingenious idea, and something that must be experienced to truly understand. There was also some titilating Burlesque antics by our own Indra Lowenstein and DeeDee Luxe (aka Double Process) to keep the rowdy crowd subdued between acts.
Finally the time had come for F-Space to take to the stage. Made up of members Ethan Port (ex-SAVAGE REPUBLIC), Scot Jenerik (local experimental artist), and Drummer Aleph Kali (also of CHROME). The collective known as F-Space slowly built a wall of ambient sounds to prepare for the coming storm. As the noise began to creep into louder tones a steady rhythm started to project its self, and take the listener on an extreme aural journey. The audience was treated to a guitar being violently abused and Scot Jenerik's handmade percussive metal pipe spewing flames from either end. However Ethan would occasionally play some Middle Eastern tinged riffs, keeping the whole thing quite melodic (and very reminiscent of the older Savage Republic material). And that was just the first song.
The whole performance brought to mind the heyday of the Industrial music scene, when places like Oakland were just as active as Germany or England. And Industrial music meant music made with actual metallic objects (as opposed to the synthesizer pop that passes for Industrial these days). By the time the flames settled one could feel the universe starting to crack. However it was far from destroyed. That would take place in the next twenty four hours.
Enter day two.
So after nursing a hangover for most of Saturday, and running around doing errands, and trying to save the rest of my energy for the coming evening, I made the trek once again over the Bay Bridge from S.F. to Berkeley (only this time I didn't get lost on my way there). I arrived a bit later than I had projected and unfortunately missed almost all of the opening bands set. But nonetheless the one and a half songs I heard The Turks perform piqued my interest in checking them out live again sometime. They had a nice heavy Punk/Surf sound (at least during the songs I caught) that I quite enjoyed. Their singer also happens to be a resident of The Shipyard, and helped set up a lot of the pyrotechnics throughout the weekend. After the Turks left the stage I went and chatted with some friends, while downing a couple of beers waiting for the next band.
Binky were up next, an all girl thrash-metal group that got the crowd pretty excited. Personally they weren't really my cup of tea, although they weren't bad. I'm just not a big metal fan. They all had matching outfits on, and banners, etc. to accentuate their stage presence. One of the members even played a trumpet during a few tracks, which is something I've only seen metal inclined bands like Mr. Bungle pull off.
Once again F-Space took to the stage and wowed the audience yet again. This time their sound was even tighter, as they had done a much more thorough sound check that evening. They played a different set than the previous night, along with a few un-released tracks. Interestingly enough while they were finishing up their last song, I went to the DJ booth to browse through my albums, so I could get an idea of what to play later in the night (I was scheduled to do the closing set), and the next DJ that was up after F-Space walked up and asked me if I'd like to take her set, as she enjoyed what I was spinning the night before, and would rather go hang out with friends anyways. So I happily accepted her offer, and got a lot of good feedback on my set. After about 40 minutes or so, the next band was on stage and ready to go.
Aesthetic Meat Front were beginning their Public Deprogramming Ritual "Blood Sun Rising". Here's a brief quote from the official A-M-F site:
"The Ultimate goal of the A-M-F rituals is to reach a moment of true Self-awareness through an intense carnal experience. Our musik is especially designed for these ritual. A combination of ancient shaman rituals with modern technology, blood, chunks of raw meat, fire, explosives, sirens, strobe lights and live body modifications are all means to reach this goal. - Louis Fleischauer"
And yes there was plenty of blood, technology, fire, explosions, sirens, strobe lights and lots of raw meat! The members of the band reminded me of the Cenobytes from Hellraiser, with their extreme body modifications. The music was quite to my liking, with heavy tribal drums, and eerie keyboard textures. Lead Singer and A-M-F founder Louis Fleischauer stood at the front of the stage holding up various messages for the audience with slogans such as "War is Peace", "Disobedience is Terrorism", "Freedom is Slavery", "Ignorance is Strength", etc. after which he would remove a pin from his eyebrows dripping blood onto each slogan, and laying them at the feet of the crowd. The ritual was designed to deprogram the audience from their corporate consumer slave existence, and to help them reach a higher level of self awareness. Maybe I had a little too much off the Sangria, but I wasn't really bothered by any of their performance. I've seen raw meat before, and blood, but one audience member wasn't so de-tuned to such things, as she apparently passed out from the smell of the meat in front of the stage. It was quite an impressive performance though I will give them that, climaxing in Louis being suspended by his back from a rather insanely large forklift, and the female members of the troupe running around covered in animal blood. When the show finally came to a close I had the pleasure of providing the soundtrack for the audience to exit to, and as I looked around at the sea of blood, meat, twisted metal, and fire, I realized that the Universe had now been destroyed (if even just for that night).
But come November it will happen all over again, as Mobilization welcomes one of the founding fathers of Industrial music "BLIXA BARGELD"! Along with a number of TBA guests at "How to Destroy the Universe (Part 3)"!
Special Thanks to Mobilization Records and all of the performers involved in the show:
Aesthetic Meat Front
and The Turks