An Ungoth at the Unconvention : Day Two of Jersey’s Finest Industrial / Goth Denizens
You might be saying to yourself right now, “That’s a weird fucking title for an article, Steve.” Which is true, but what contains more truth than that statement is the accuracy of the article’s title. Though I have completely fallen in love with the dark side of electronic music, I’ve never necessarily considered myself to be a Goth. I think I fell in love with the color black due to its simplicity and resistance to stains; henceforth why I wear it all the time. Black pants and a black tank top with black shoes? It matches. And I don’t have to worry about it. Pick an outfit, throw on some shoes, and I’ve my day halfway started. Sure, some color correlation is sometimes required if I’m wearing black and red shorts, but other than that it’s not something that bogs me down in the middle of the day. Henceforth the amusing little snippet. Anyway, enough about me and onto the next thing. We’re here to talk about the bands that performed on Saturday at the Unconvention, which is unfortunately the only day of the Convention I was able to attend.
On a side note, the Unconvention contained a ton of other panels, DJ sets, dance rooms, and vendors. I shan’t be covering those as I didn’t have the time to really explore the extras much. Being that this is a music site, I wanted to see the bands perform live. Therefor that’s what I did, with the spare time in between spent resting and eating. Another thing is that you may notice a lack of pictures within this article; that’s because I was more intent on experiencing the moment than taking photos. The only photo I got was of myself and my friend who went with me, but I don’t think our miserable mugs would do any good here. If anyone has any photos that they’d be willing to share, however, I’ll gladly add them to the article. ANYWAY.
And so, I headed into the terrace, or the room with the stage where all the bands would be playing when I arrived around 3:50. A deeply personal setup for a deeply personal and niche scene where a lot of people know one another. There was plenty of room to dance (as many did) or headbang (as some did) or stand there with their arms folded looking unimpressed because that’s how they experience joy (as I most definitely did on numerous occasions). I can only hope that I didn’t appear to be that much of a curmudgeon (but I probably did).
The first act to hit the stage was Ryan Lynch which was…Well, a little bit disappointing. I’m unsure if the act was going for a mysterious persona or ambiguity, but with not a word that I can remember did they begin their set. A bit of a trippy set that began the evening, with some groovy beats, but an otherwise dull stage presence. When their set ended, rather than announcing the end of the set, the group began to disband from the stage with someone from the audience asking, “Are you done?” It was only after Lynch’s response that we knew for certain the set was over, and the audience gave some appreciation.
When Null Device came on the stage next, I was quite excited by what they would do; seeing them come onto stage with violins had my curiosity peaked. Eric Oehler was quick to make a joke about how he knew Matt Fanale, which made me chuckle but otherwise went over the heads of everyone else there. Apologies, Mr. Fanale, but you’re not world famous just as of yet. What I will say about Null Device is that their instrumentals are astounding. I can’t quite remember the set list they went with, but everything from pop sensibilities to deep basslines and slow-paced ballads were played. I wasn’t huge on Oehler’s vocals live; I think it’s an area that they need to work on.
The Destruct Principle. was the next band to come on stage. And, fuck me if this wasn’t the best act the stage saw that night. Yeah, I know that Grendel and Leaether Strip came on later in the evening, but I couldn’t have asked for a better, moody, and ominous set from The Destruct Principle than what I saw. Bathed in crimson stage light did this quartet begin what they considered their “ritual”. Smoke rose, candles were lit, and like demons from mother Earth did the band pummel through song after song with a mixture of tribal drums, industrial metal madness, and Satanic ambiance. Following the event, I looked them up on Bandcamp and was shocked to see how their studio versions compared to their live events. The energy, the percussion, everything was so much better live than in the studio, and that’s usually the opposite for most bands. The studio version of their album is still good, but if I ever see The Destruct Principle. rolling through my town, I’m making a stop wherever they’ll be for certain.
Following the enormous stage presence of The Destruct Principle. came Eva X. The synthpop sensation that’s been storming the scene for the past couple of months brought her high energy directly to the stage. Jumping around on stage like a bat out of hell, never missing a beat, and transferring that energy directly to the crowd worked wonders. Mid-set Eva X even brought out a bit of a surprise cover; as she sung the words “When they called me broken, I knew” I also knew that this was a cover of Gary Numan’s infamous ‘My Name Is Ruin’. While it’s hard to beat the master at his own game, it came pretty damned close. I was also beyond happy to hear her perform ‘Whipping Girl’ on stage, a song that we premiered a couple of months back. The familiarity with it perhaps led me to enjoy it even more, but nonetheless it gave me some goosebumps. After jumping into the crowd for the final moments of her set, Eva X wished us well, and we moved on.
The always fashionably minded NØIR came on stage next. The duo came out wearing their signature ball-minded masks and fancy suit and dress. But once the music hit it was as if they we performing like the rest. Mid-set Athan took a moment to state, “Gotta give my old ass a break.” That being said, for an old ass, Athan certainly moved like he was still young. Even for a two-piece act, their stage presence was immense and Athan did his best to keep the crowd addicted to their show. What came after NØIR’s set was something very heartfelt that he, Donna Lynch and Steve Archer, Jim Semonik, JD Tucker, and a few others took part in. A tribute to the late and great Dave Heckman of Metropolis Records where kind words and fond memories were reflected and reminisced upon. It was a short, but beautiful ode to a wondrous man who was extremely important to the American industrial scene.
Rolling in after came GRENDEL. An obvious fan favorite that got the dancefloor packed, Grendel went on to perform a lively set that blew my ears out. JD Tucker easily took control of the crowd, constantly asking New Jersey to raise their hands in the air, if they were having a good time, and making sure that crowd participation was huge. And the crowd ate it up. Several songs, both old and new, were played. ‘Severed Nation’ featuring that amazingly sexy saxophone, ‘Dirty’, ‘Hate This’, ‘Soilbleed’, and so many others were played. GRENDEL did a couple of fakeouts as well, threatening to leave the stage, be responsible adults, and (in their own words), go “beddy bye, byes”. Obviously, this just riled the crowed up even more and made them play harder, louder, and more driven than ever before.
Between GRENDEL’s set and the following was a pole set up and a very skilled and athletic pole dancer whose name I didn’t catch; she wowed the crowd. Her stunts, flexibility, and genuine performance were awe striking.
Unfortunately, it was around this time that I could feel myself starting to wane. To get sleepy. I didn’t get a hotel room as I only live an hour from the event, so I figured I could make it through. That wasn’t the case. By the time Leaether Strip hit the stage, my friend and I made the responsible decision to head home a little early as to not be dangerous on the road….But that didn’t mean I didn’t stay for at least one song. Leaether Strip started with a fan favorite ‘Don’t Tame Your Soul’. Though Claus is but one person on the stage, that doesn’t mean he doesn’t know how to grab your full attention. Dancing around on the stage, bouncing around, Claus captured the crowd and kept them moving. He even took the time to head to his synth set-up and do some improv keys which got the crowd roaring. I wasn’t able to stay for the whole set (which made me sad), but from what I’ve seen on social media he did fantastic. And the show only got better.
We left the Regency promptly and got to the car; when asked the question, “Do you think you’ll go back next year?” my answer was, “Yes, and I’ll probably get a room and a three-day pass.” If that doesn’t sum up my thoughts on this year’s Unconvention, I don’t know what will.
I've been writing for Brutal Resonance since November of 2012 and now serve as the editor-in-chief. I love the dark electronic underground and usually have too much to listen to at once but I love it. I am also an editor at Aggressive Deprivation, a digital/physical magazine since March of 2016. I support the scene as much as I can from my humble laptop.
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