Well, Kinetik Festival has been over for a week now, and our post-fest depression has subsided somewhat, at least enough for us to start sifting through the notes we made on our phones, the various drunken observations made on our Twitter account and our (admittedly hazy) recollection of how it all went down.
A couple things right off the bat; firstly as a couple of full-patch K veterans who’ve been to the festival each year, we’d like to commend organizer Jean-Francois for his work. As with every iteration of the fest there are tons of folks who work their asses off while the rest of us are getting drunk and bullshitting around (shouts out to Tech Director/Stage Manager Nathan – the sound this year was likely the best in the festival’s history), but it’s JF who makes it all happen, and he deserves mad kudos for it.
Secondly, of all the years it seemed like this one ran smoothest with little to no difficulty in the tech/scheduling department. Think about it: a festival of this scope is essentially a collection of moving parts, and even one cog slipping out of place can throw the whole thing off, resulting in shortened sets or cancellations. We were bummed Winterkalte couldn’t make it, but damn if pretty much every band that did hit that stage didn’t do it in a timely fashion and have something to offer. That’s a herculean feat, so props where they’re due.
Lastly, perhaps more than any other year this felt like a community event. Sure, it’s rad to see tons of bands we love and hang out in la belle ville, but Kinetik isn’t just about the actual mechanics of the festival, but about seeing friends from all over and sharing the experience with them. As drippy as it may sound, it’s what separates an actual festival from just four days of bands. One love to our homeys from across the globe, next year in Montreal!
With that preamble, we’d like to run down our ten personal, entirely subjective highlights of Kinetik 5.0. We’ll list ’em down in chronological order. While between DJing and trying to ingest at least some non-alcoholic sustenance we didn’t catch the entirety of everyone’s sets, we did get to see at least a bit of every band’s show. Let’s get to it!
What’s at risk of getting lost in the whole “We Demand Better” situation is that Ad·ver·sary, aided and abetted by Antigen Shift, played an absolutely smoking set at Kinetik, cultural critiques aside. Playing tracks new and old which highlighted the band’s more rhythmically propulsive side, Jairus Khan and Nick Thériault did a great job of pleasing both the festival’s dedicated noise folk and giving trainspotters a whole mess of tasty, well-layered cuts to introduce them to Kinetik’s more experimental side.
Confession time: we haven’t been keeping up on Klangstabil at all, and now we feel like total assholes. These dudes have been at it for almost twenty years, bouncing between various genres (Alex may have a record by them that was recorded on a Gameboy?), finally settling into an intensely emotional, gorgeous strain of synth music that we totally didn’t expect, but was floored by. Despite their relatively unadorned stage set-up, singer/programmer Boris delivered a heartfelt and honest performance on the mic that transcended costumes, visuals and lights: they connected with the audience, full stop. Having bought their last album Math & Emotion immediately after their set we’ve had songs like “Square Root of One” and “Love Has Too Much Audience” on repeat. Just lovely, and unexpectedly so, which makes it an even better performance in retrospect.
Dedicated readers might have surmised that our pre-festival writeup about this mystery act wasn’t entirely on the level. Truth be told, we’d been able to figure out that the project would, in all likelihood, be a pisstake Scooter cover band, but we weren’t sure of exactly who was behind it. As it turns out, festival organizer JF and FGFC820’s Rexx Arkana were the pranksters in charge of the whole affair, which featured just about half of the bands involved taking the stage in some form or another to blunder their way through three Scooter tracks, and ensuring that we’d all have the “DOOT DAH DOOT DAH-DAH DOOT DOOT DOOT” refrain of “Maria” (as performed by VLRK, Andy LaPlegua, Eric Gottesman and FGFC820) wedged in our heads for days to come. We still can’t really believe that this happened.
You know, we talk about the difficulty synth-based bands have bringing their show to the stage a lot. After all, when you’re essentially a one man act, how do you do a live-show that remains faithful to your material while avoiding the dreaded synth-and-a-laptop-and-singer syndrome? Grendel went the route of bringing a full on band to the stage, and shit, those fellas drove it straight to the capital. Beyond the energy of a full musical-unit feeding off of the energy of the crowd, and then pushing it back, it was a genuine pleasure to hear bangers like “Harsh Generation” and “Timewave: Zero” with added drums, guitar and bass (the latter played by Gottesman who revealed his Caustic “Stop Sampling Full Metal Jacket” shirt during “Soilbleed”, the rascal). JD Tucker’s last record showed an artist unafraid to grow his sound organically, and it was good to see an equal amount of effort in that arena brought to the stage.
We’re not even sure how we’re supposed to write about seeing one of our favourite acts of all time without descending into a series of superlatives punctuated with cuss words for emphasis. We could talk about the specifics, like the unexpected choice of fantastic B-side “Letting the Demons Sleep” as the opening track, or Daniel’s stage patter outlining their lengthy journey across the Atlantic or the weirdly emotional reaction we had to hearing classics like “Eye Over You” and “Dream Aid”. Or, we could discuss how balanced the band were as a live act, switching between synths and percussion, ably assisted by Manuel G. Richter of Xabec/Underwater Pilots. But ultimately the takeaway for us was the sort of vindication that only comes from seeing a band you love perform their material live. Daniel and Dejan don’t just make music that matters to us: judging by the reaction of the crowd, they make music that just matters. Best set of the ‘fest.
If HYPR! strained the limits of our credulity early in the evening, Heimataerde’s appearance later the same night utterly obliterated them with a single blow from a crusader’s warhammer. Y’know, you can say and write the phrase “vampiric Templar electro-industrial band” as many times as you want, but it’s not until the whole schtick comes to life onstage before you that the words actually click. Toss in some medieval flute playing over the whole shebang (and the fact that the band apparently stays wholly in their Templar characters as soon as they don their kit) and we were utterly bewildered. Thankfully the music was the stompy fun we’d expected from their recorded output and was a great way to close out the second night. After a couple of tracks we’d adjusted and were along for the ride, though years of pro wrestling fandom tipped us to vocalist Ashlar Von Megalon (we swear to Jacques de Molay we are not making this up) palming a blood capsule just in time to bite the neck of his beloved. Lord Soth would’ve been proud.
One of the chief complaints we heard levelled at the festival this year was the repeats in the line-up. As a counter-argument we would present Raoul Rotation’s relentlessly murderous set, that while no less engaging than his performance at Kinetik 3.0, was worlds apart in approach and execution. The jager-party vibe of his previous appearance was absent in favour of a wave of exhausting drum-kit assisted distortion-and-strobe-light action that served as a valuable reminder that Noisex is the guy who coined the term “power noise”. From the opening sequences of “Serious Killer” through the closing moments of “Dead of Programs”, he had us by the (figurative) balls, which oddly enough didn’t impede our dancing at all. Oooh, Raoul! *swoon*
When you get shouted out in a band’s lyrics and end up onstage drunkenly yelling into a mic with them, you kind of lose whatever pretensions of journalistic objectivity you might try to drape yourself in, but so be it: we love the fucking Gothsicles, and so does Kinetik, if the reception given to their revamped version of “Holy Shit, We’re Playing Kinetik” and “Save Dat Mermaid” (which has proven to be one of 2011’s most enduring tracks, regardless of the awesome video) is anything to go by. Brian and Mike served up a nice mix of classics and stuff from the recent Industrialites & Magic before a penultimate, spot-on cover of White Town’s “Your Woman” which just worked, dammit. If you’ve never caught The Gothsicles’ three ring circus live, you absolutely owe it to yourself to do so (just be wary of the sweaty hugs afterwards – those dudes go full-tilt the whole way through and are downright sopping by the end).
After three full days of power noise, aggrotech, dark electro and EBM, a little pure synthpop goes a long way. A little synthpop delivered by Beborn Beton, long absent from North American stages and well over a decade away from their last LP, felt like nothing short of a blessing. Aided by Stefan Netschio’s flawless and tireless vocals, the German trio delivered all the hits the crowd wanted (though, as Alex remarked, they could’ve just played “Another World” for an hour and everyone would’ve still left happy), but also dropped three new songs, all of which sounded stellar (especially “Daisycutter”). The as yet untitled, in process LP from the trio just became a lot more hotly anticipated.
Last sets of the fest are usually melancholic affairs. On the one hand you’re exhausted and ready to crash for a full week. On the other hand you desperately don’t want it to be over. So, understand that having these science-fiction obsessed Swedes close things out was a stroke of complete genius. There was a point during their set (during perennial ID:UD favourite “Out There”) when we looked around and realized we were surrounded on all sides by friends: singing, dancing, drinking and above all, smiling. It was a wonderful moment, one that encapsulated both why we make the (star) trek to Montreal each year, and also the power of having ultra-catchy synthpop songs you know everyone can sing along to by the end of the first chorus. Live long and prosper, Star Pilots. Live long and prosper.
What are your favourite memories from this year’s Kinetik? Holler at us in the comments!