By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
HOW TO DESTROY THE UNIVERSE FESTIVAL PART 5 WITH BLIXA BARGELD, SAVAGE REPUBLIC, THE CENTIMETERS
at the Echo, January 27
An “extreme music, art and performance” festival organized by former Savage Republic/Death Ride 69 member Ethan Port, HTDU Part 5 was billed as “a who’s who of the best industrial, noise, punk and left-of-center culture,” presenting disparate artists (within the “extreme” sphere) on one stage to encourage a questioning of, uh, things we’re biased about, culturally. For some context, refer to Burning Man, with all the shamanistic big-metal-can whomping, poetry-prating and fire-dancing that might conjure. Tonight did assemble three highly contrary representatives of such creative realms for the juxtaposing pleasure of a large, weird mélange of people, including nostril-flaringly intense L.A. art-punk aficionados in trench coats/eyeliner/blond-dyed quiffs; many even more pallid goth kids with pointy black forelocks and Max Schreck faces; several Sansabelt/zits art-school dorks gone to even greasier seed; and a few fu-manchu’d old ponytails at the bar.
An opening set by L.A.’s infamous weird-for-weirdness’-sake Centimeters was followed by an interminable wait while the reunion of the reunion version of Savage Republic set up their equipment; the L.A. industrial/tribal/punk/whatsit veterans finally came on to tremendous nostalgic huzzahs and proceeded to thrash away for about 45 minutes. It was very weak; the band (consisting of post-1983 members Thom Fuhrmann, Greg Grunke, Ethan Port and Sterling Fox) did mention at the outset that they hadn’t played much in the last 20 years, but I doubt more rehearsal time would’ve improved these slack, hokey desert/space jams and explicitly political bellowings.
Blixa Bargeld’s intelligent high-concept and rather menacing charisma wiped the slate clean. His set of vocalizations and storytelling through four sampler/delay tootlebugs achieved sustained intervals of shivering beauty and absorbing detail. The “godfather of industrial music” (a title earned with his groundbreaking former band Einstürzende Neubauten) used a variety of percussive vocal tones and textures to produce virtual orchestras, sampling/looping the audience as well in a particularly enchanting “scale model of the solar system.”
Bargeld clearly demonstrated the exhilarating possibilities that the original “industrial-punk” hybrids implied; Savage Republic seemed locked in a sketchily thought-out I-punk stance of yesteryear. When it comes to challenging cultural assumptions, it’s probably best to start by checking your own shit.