So here it is, our recap and runthrough of our personal highlights from our weekend of rivet revelry in Chicago for Cold Waves III. This is obviously just a cross-section of our experiences meant to give a snapshot of what the fest was all about, rather than any sort of critical breakdown or ranking of performances. A huge amount of thanks are due to David Schock, Jason Novak and the rest of the Cold Waves crew for putting on such a massive and diverse show underpinned by such a worthy cause. Thanks to everyone who came and said hi or let us know that they read the site or listened to the podcast; stuff like that is what keeps us going! Very special thanks are also due to Kelly and Matt for putting a couple of smelly snoring canucks up on their couch for the weekend and ferrying them about. Extra special props to our homey Jill Grant from Take it for Granted for the use of her amazing photos! Have another festival moment or memory you’d like to share? Post it in the comments, and we’ll hopefully see you back in Chicago for 2015!
Youth Code crush it.
Seriously, what can we say at this point that hasn’t been said (a) by countless Cold Waves Attendees online, (b) by the increasingly wide net of music sites of all stripes starting to take note of Youth Code, or hell, (c) by us on the podcast or on our take on their new EP? Youth Code fucking destroyed this festival. If anyone at Cold Waves had any doubt about Ryan George and Sara Taylor’s commitment to pure, raw EBM and absolutely murderous live performances, those were quickly laid to rest by the first of Taylor’s many manic charges at the crowd, standing on the edge of the stage, looking out over a seething mass ecstatic at having a very particular itch scratched. Strict BPM, indeed.
Wax Trax Takes Your Money. All of it.
Collectors of industrial vinyls never had a chance at Cold Waves, what with the Wax Trax pop-up store being there and all. The shirts, classic posters and other bits of merch (including a rad matte black coffee mug) were one thing, but the real piece de resistance was the massive collection of CDs, vinyls and tapes, many of them unopened and all vintage and priced to sell. Even leaving aside the sweet test pressing collector pieces behind the counter there were plenty of rarities to be had, and those of us with cash to spend were scooping ’em up by the armload. Word on the street is that the good folks from Wax Trax haven’t even dented their supply of vintage releases, so if you’re looking for that sealed copy of Caustic Grip or No Name, No Slogan you’ve still got a shot.
A crafty welcome.
Chicago synth noodler, Coil archivist, beer master, and all around stand-up bloke Adam Vavrick welcomed industrial pilgrims from all over the world to his city by hosting an icebreaker and mixer of sorts at the tasting room he runs. Hella rare lactobacillus infected beers were tapped, along with one of Adam’s own Coil-themed brews, and friends were made fast at a great event that made people from very far away from home feel right at home. We got to chat in a relaxed environment with friends we were finally meeting in meatspace, and may or may not have broken the bank digging into the neighboring scotch whisky vaults.
Front 242 Come Home.
Okay fine, we all know full well that the EBM legends who headlined the second night are from Belgium. That didn’t stop Front 242 from declaring that it was “good to be home” when they hit the Cold Waves stage and treated the crowd to a collection of hits spanning the majority of their catalogue, from the requisite hits like “Welcome to Paradise” and “Quite Unusual” through to special treats like a reworked version of “7Rain”. Judging by how packed the Metro was on Saturday evening Chicago certainly hasn’t forgotten their love for 242, and the band themselves seemed especially energized by their return to a venue they’ve been playing on for a couple decades now. It was plain as the Bears jersey on Richard 23’s back when they band came out for the second of three encores: Chicago loves Front 242 and 242 loves Chicago back.
Cold Waves has its cake and eats it too.
Saying Cold Waves had a guitar night and an electronic night is reductive, not to mention demonstrably not true: plenty of crossover in styles and subgenres graced each night of the fest. What’s most interesting to us is the acknowledgment by festival proxy that Chicago’s legacy in the world of industrial goes well beyond just cowboy hats and machined-up riffs. Yeah, you got bands like Cyanotic and SMP speaking to that history, but you also had analogue synth sorcery from Surachai and wholly new mutations of the industrial metal sound like Author & Punisher representing. Cold Waves had what we would consider to be a solid balance of eras and sounds without feeling rote or generic. Festival promoters take note.
Jamie Duffy looms large.
We didn’t know Jamie Duffy, apart from his music. We didn’t play any shows he ran sound for, we didn’t DJ with him, we never titled a glass with him. But the love that Chicago, and the broader North American industrial scene has for Duffy and his memory was palpable throughout Cold Waves, never moreso than when his mother took the stage. We’ll never know the extent of the sorrow Patricia Duffy felt at losing her son so early, so tragically, but the joy she felt at seeing so many of her son’s friends and extended family come together to celebrate his life and raise funds for Hope for the Day on his behalf was obvious to everyone, and didn’t leave a dry eye in the room.
∆AIMON weave magick.
It was the little moments, the little differences that put the second time we’ve been able to catch the beguiling San Diego duo behind some of our favourite music from the past half decade. The subtle shifts in programming on a couple of tracks. The sense of tension and catharsis being compounded by the addition of live drums. The crowd screaming in solidarity with Brant Showers during “Flatliner”. The staticky mesh of noise that seemed to fall over the crowd during “Low”. It was the sheer strength of their material which made ∆AIMON’s Flatliner our favourite release of 2011, but it’s subtle charms like these which have helped consolidate our love for them.
Chicago reps Chicago.
Moreso than any of the other North American festivals we’ve been fortunate enough to catch (Kinetik, Terminus, Aftermath), Cold Waves felt rooted in and inseparable from the city it was set in. Locals of all ages and subcultural stripes showed up both nights, and the history of North America’s arguably most storied industrial city (not that we’re chopped liver here in Van) felt very much front and center. This isn’t to say that there was a “locals only” feel, just the opposite: the vibe at the fest was one of Chicago presenting its own industrial history, both to visitors and to itself. That sort of specificity added a unique flavour to Cold Waves which just couldn’t be replicated anywhere else, and made us feel like we were getting extra bang for our travel buck.
SMP get their due.
A festival’s headliners are undoubtedly their biggest draw, but there’s a lot to be said for what happens on the undercard every night. One of our favourite things is seeing a hard working and long-running genre band get their due, which was a big part of what we enjoyed about SMP’s set on Friday evening. Jason Bazinet’s industrial rock project has been running for almost 20 years, and have more than earned their place in any line-up of genre bands worth its salt; whether it was mid-90s tracks like “Pure Uncut Anger” or recent beast-mode shit like “Metal Madness” Sounds of Mass Production represented themselves to the fullest.
Front 242 spin us out.
By the time Sunday night rolled out, we certainly felt as though we’d gotten our time and money’s worth out of Cold Waves, and rolled on over to Smart Bar to catch Richard 23 and Patrick Codenys DJ more out of a desire to say hi and bye to a few folks before taking off. Things were pretty no frills, but by the time Coder 23 got rolling, we were having a grand old time. The 242 hands gave nods to their Belgian roots with Snowy Red plays, showed that they’re tracking newer post-punk with some Soft Moon, and made floor-packing concessions to far bigger dance tracks by NIN and Gessafelstein. We were sad to see closing time roll around as we downed our last Lagunitas on the dancefloor.
Nimbit Music preserves things for posterity.
The idea of recording performances for a festival DVD or CD ain’t a new one, but we were pretty impressed with how things went down at Cold Waves. Festival sponsor PreSonus brought out their Nimbit division to record literally every second of every set at Cold Waves and then released them all for download a short week or so later. Aside from getting the opportunity to relive your favourite songs and bits of stage banter (or experience them after the fact if you couldn’t make it), all profits from the sets go to Hope for the Day, the charity Cold Waves partners with each year. We can get behind that.
The promise of Cold Waves to come.
Right before Youth Code hit the stage, festival co-promoter David Schock took to the stage to ask how many people had been at each of the two previous Cold Waves events. He then asked how many people were planning to be at Cold Waves 2015, 2016, and 2017. The response he got says it all really; folks enjoyed themselves at Cold Waves, and sounded ready to do it again. The mark of a successful event is always how much repeat business you can expect in future, and with their brand established and the word starting to spread, we feel like Cold Waves ain’t going nowhere.