You would be hard pressed to find a more representative slice of underground/independent industrial/darkwave artists with punk energy and aesthetics than the spring 2022 tour headlined by Detroit’s ADULT., who have been pioneering that sound since the 90s.
Spike Hellis opened the proceeings with its kinetic industrial glitchcore sounds like Atari Teenage Riot. Its aggressive and urgent beats and eruptive dynamics delivered a sense of displacement and disorientation yet not confusion. The mood was very focused and present with that disruptive energy seemingly aimed at the complacency that has the culture stuck, repeating outworn patterns that seem comfortable but has society trapped in a psychological death spiral from which the music of Spike Hellis and its ferocious performance seemed like a counter to that emotional paralysis.
Kontravoid’s set set a similar tone with a flood of strobes in sync with the avalanche of textured melody and rhythms. Wearing a white mask and black clothes, Cameron Findlay seemed to channel and resist the spirit of an era when we’re all encouraged to monetize our very lives and become yes a “Faceless” figure in service to an international corporate and authoritarian agenda that sees pretty much everyone as interchangeable and only useful insofar as they fit into the strategy of maximizing profit above all other human needs or concerns. But with this music Findlay gives a powerful form of dark dance music that makes it impossible to forget you have a body you live in and that the experience of it is very much your own and with vitality of the performance and the sonics of the music it felt like you were part of something while also not being subsumed by it. Kontravoid created a headspace outside of normal time with the strobes and when they shut down it felt like being eased back into ordinary existence and that effect is surely a gift.
ADULT. had been on the road for weeks prior to this gig and anyone driving to Denver is coming from far away. Nicola Kuperus may have alluded to this fact early in the show while at the same time seeming pleasantly surprised that people showed up maybe more so than in the past in Denver. But no predictable complaints about the altitude and with little preamble Kuperus and Adam Lee Miller gave us a generously lengthy set. Kuperus used her two microphones like conductor batons in gesturing with the crowd and prowled the stage striking an array of ritualistic poses as one might have come to expect from the singer. But it never feels rote from this band. There was no phoning it in, rather, a performance that honors why ADULT. has been at this project for some twenty-four years.
The set list sounded seamless in production style though mostly drawing from the group’s three most recent albums This Behavior (2018) including the brooding title track, Perception is/as/of Deception (2020) and the stellar new record Becoming Undone. There’s something instantly compelling when you can see that a performer is feeling the emotions that went into the writing the songs, as heavy as they can be with ADULT., all over again. It’s shamanic in its ability to induce a catharsis for the anxieties, fears, frustrations of living in a country and global civilization seemingly bent on overt and what is insisted is subtle self-destruction with the specter of climate change and environmental degradation neglected for so long politicians and corporate leaders blame the effects on personal choice over the way the economic system is organized and prioritized to maximize profits and push the costs of questionable choices and agendas onto the natural world including human life in aggregate. The weight of that pressure you heard in the way ADULT. crafted atmospherics and in how Kuperus evoked that no longer ignorable agony that the is subconsciously pervasive with most people and not at all subconsciously for many of us. The honesty of that expression extended a human solidarity that underlined the show thus making it beyond a signal of the endurance of live music and the hunger for it the kind of performance that might actually be good for you too.
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