Most music festivals keep punters sated during the summer months with sunlight, overpriced beer, and polite applause for polite bands playing polite music. This is not the case in Santa Ana, CA at Berserktown II. The roster is quite unique, with mostly punk, metal, and noise acts – some highlights being Aussie post-punks Total Control, the activist punk band Downtown Boys, and the Arizona guitar army Destruction Unit. There was no branding, sponsorship, VIP areas, or any of the trappings of a typical fest, and nearly 50+ acts of varying level of terror and obscurity. One of my new finds was Appetite, a duo consisting of writer/photographer Jane Chardiet and DJ/promoter Ciarra Black. Over the course of the performance, most of a bottle of red wine was consumed (then regurgitated) as caustic pulses and throbs occasionally gave way to traditional 4/4 percussion.
Another highlight of the “dance tent” was Damien Dubrovnik. A Danish duo (you may recognize the frontman Loke Rahbeck from the live incarnation of synthpoppers Lust For Youth or Iceage side project Vår) who turn power electronics into a psychedelic experiment, opposed to the typical test of auditory endurance. Lilac-hued lights wash out the stage as strobes cut through ample and continuous smoke, Rahbeck moaning, howling, and pawing at himself while Christian Stadsgaard shapes waves of feedback with a teeny tiny travel guitar and a table of machines.
Let’s head back to New York, where ultra-highbrow Berlin label PAN is having a showcase at Ridgewood, Queens’ Trans-Pecos. Long after midnight, label stalwart Helm performs an unsettling ambient set – bringing forth imagery of being slowly digested, or perhaps drowned. M.E.S.H. was up next, sequencing a solid set of pounding early ’90s garage/jungle bangers that rattled away any lingering anxiety.
While we’re discussing imports, Fade To Mind’s Jam City recently played his first US show at Elvis Guest House in the East Village – scratchy guitar, muffled beats, and melodramatic vocals remove both the haze and gloss from his 2015 LP Dream A Garden – stark and raw, but not unrefined. Across the bridge to metal bar St. Vitus, Publicist UK give a similarly genuine performance – singer Zachary Lipez channels Stan Ridgway’s sardonic delivery, the remainder of the band sounding like an unfussy, riffier version of The Sisters of Mercy. They’re not as much post-punk as they are post-everything – totally fitting for a Brooklyn band.
Finally – I’m a teeny bit late on this one, but the Portugal label Príncipe is putting out some of the most exciting dance 12”s I’ve heard in a really long time. All 10 releases are great, my personal favorite being Tá Tipo Já Não Vamos by the Tia Maria Produções crew. It’s the most melodic of the label’s releases – bursting with an endless variety of percussion flourishes and wonky house music signifiers, making this equally fitting for a rooftop rager or a listen on your headphones.