Kinetik has come and gone. We've left Montreal with beer in our guts, CDs in our bags, and plenty of noise buzzing in our ears. We'll be offering a general write-up of the organization, mood and presentation of the festival as a whole, but first let's get run down the bands, day by day. First up, Phase One: Electro.
Suprisingly more stark EBM than we would have expected. Aside from well worn hardcore classics like "One Night in NYC", most of the tracks featured a traditional, Belgian EBM sound, exemplified by his straight-forward cover of "Body to Body". Aside from adding occasional Atari Teenage Riot style vocals, The Horrorist’s assistant manned the backing tracks on an iBook (the official computer of, well, everyone at Kinetik), leaving Chessler free to roam the stage and crowd with a handheld halogen lamp and distract from the limitations of what was essentially a laptop set. Bonus points for playing "I Am A Sex Machine", as seen being demo'd by Chessler in the "where are they now" portion of Depeche Mode’s classic concert film "101". Even more bonus points for rocking a hairstyle so memorable, iconic and ridiculous in that film that someone in the crowd felt moved to sport it in tribute twenty years later.
Not a disappointment, but certainly not a pleasant surprise either. One man behind a laptop, one track flowing into the next with no change in BPM doesn’t make for as much of a live experience as it does a DJ set. Fine, workmanlike electro that lacked the synthpop flourishes of his recorded output. The crowd seemed to enjoy it, but we could’ve used more vocals to break up the repetition.
Kicking off with "Getting Closer", Nitzer Ebb justified their status not only as the biggest name at Kinetik by far, but also one of the two quintessential EBM bands of all time. McCarthy was in fine form (and remarkably well-preserved to boot), bouncing back forth for the duration of the set, barking, goose-stepping and tanzing der Mussolini. No effort was made to retrofit their songs as some of their late 80s/early 90s contemporaries have done in recent years. The vitality of the material transcended its age and still sounded as brash, bombastic and relentless as the day it was released. Were an uninitiated party to take in their set, there’d be no indication that the bulk of these tracks dated back to the Thatcher administration. And yes, we joined in the chant and shouted golden shouts.