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Voltage Overload:
A Hard Rock Concert Review
By: Matthew MacDermant

August 24th 5:00 PM…
Doors open at the Voltage Lounge on 7th and Willow in Philadelphia, a
small venue pinched between the towering shadow of the once great Club
Shampoo, home to the original Dracula’s Ball and The Electric Factory, the city’s
go-to venue for rock, metal, and hardcore. Intimate stage, intimate floor, an
unoccupied balcony, sunlight glaring into the eyes of the local opening band,
Generation Empty. It feels strange to see a group, indoors, clad in black and
sleeved in tattoos playing at such an early hour, but it’s always great to be first on
the scene to catch a glimpse at newer, smaller, independent artists. Few make the
trek to see the first band, but this is a mistake. Start to finish, each band weaves
their own unique patch in the tapestry of sound that comprises a tour. Like
listening to an album front to back, seeing a show open to close is a special
experience that, due to its temporal and temporary nature, is something to really
cherish. Never again will we have the chance to see this combination of bands
play this set, at this particular venue, with this particular mood, lighting, and
audience. Truly, it is once in a lifetime, and the openers are far from a
throwaway, something to be skipped. In fact, they are live music at its rawest,
before a single slice of fame. I feel lucky to take part every time I see a show.
This particular show features four awesome bands playing four unique
forms of music. Generation Empty, Charcoal Tongue, Kaleido, and September
Mourning put on a hell of a show.
Having only a twenty-minute set and just over a dozen patrons to hear
them, Generation Empty had to select just a few cuts for the lucky few who
arrived at opening. While the audience was still shaking off the malaise of work
and the outside world, the band was in their element. They played four songs
before the cut-off, but it gave a taste of the group’s industrial/aggrotech rock
fusion sound, which would be very much at home in a goth/industrial club. Fans
of Aesthetic Perfection, Ludovico Technique, Combichrist and other more rock-
centric bands like Marilyn Manson will find much to love with this act. They’re
dark, the vocals are harsh and distorted, and they simply have a cool aesthetic
that sets the mood low and sucks in the listener. All of this was juxtaposed with
the perfect sunshine beaming through the late afternoon windows facing seventh
street. That made the whole scene surreal, and who doesn’t enjoy that?
Next up: Charcoal Tongue graces the stage, on day seven of the tour en
route from San Antonio, Texas. These guys really put their all into their music. I

can feel the instruments and the lyrics emotionally and viscerally. They stay
away from the formulaic safety of pop music structure, instead producing music
that speaks to their fans, especially those suffering in the hellish pit of depression
and suicidal thoughts. I had the chance to interview Chris and Matt and gained a
real appreciation for what they are all about. Clad in a tee-shirt that said “It’s
okay to not be okay,” Chris told me about how music can be a medicine and how
the band’s namesake is actually a reference to his own struggles with his
attempted suicide some years ago. Charcoal Tongue pours that struggle into their
songwriting, giving listeners hope and a sense that they are not alone. Heavy
hitting, well executed and timed screaming mixed with clean emotionally laden
lyrics comes together both in studio and at the venue. It was captivating to hear
and feel that pain, vulnerability, and courage, and when their set was cut short
by the event managers, I was more than a bit disappointed to break with that
energy. I hope to hear a lot more of this raw and powerful music.
Third on the stage: Detroit-based hard rock outfit Kaleido jumps up in front
of the crowd. Frontwoman Christina Kaleido has an instant and distinct presence.
She is confident, determined, untouchable. She comes across as a person who has
faced a lot of bullshit, faced it down, and kept on walking. This was my first
impression. When the band started playing, I would like to think this was
verified. Meaningful, empowering lyrics, shredding guitar and bass progression
were matched with Christina’s aura on stage. Each word was delivered with
precision, often slowly and deliberately, as if they were being said as statements
directly to the people in the audience. There were also several occasions when
raw emotion seeped from Christina, from the lyrics, and from the strings and
drums in a way that spoke to me as a human being. The struggle and pain felt
very real. When the tempo and mood fell, we all fell. Likewise, when the tempo
rose back up, when the clean vocals turned harsh, when the steady progression
turned to triumphant angular ascending riffs, we all ascended as well. This all
made sense when, in talking to Christina after the show, she emphasized the
focus of using music as a means to empowerment. Looking back on the set, I can
sense that. I felt it. I especially felt that coming from her and I imagine that the
women who listen to Kaleido and look up to her are empowered, at least
temporarily, by the music. This reminds me once again just how important and
life-changing music can be.
The final act: September Mourning struts out across the stage, shrouded in
smoke, clad in reaper costumes and led by a half-reaper hybrid wrapped in white
leather, prepared for battle. The crowd is on their feet, glued to center stage,
inching to the front to see what is in store. There is a long intro, and slowly, string
and percussion begin to fill the thick hot air surrounding the stage. The set

Powerful riffs trade off with angular progressions and lyrical melody to
produce a critical mass of sound that hits my fellow listeners and I with a musical
storm. Each piece takes the audience to distant, sometimes beautiful, sometimes
nightmarish places. Everyone in the front row appears mesmerized and (singer’s
name) doesn’t hesitate to lock eyes and draw each and every one of them in with
Siren-like magic. Most interesting, though, is the use of visuals in the show. Each
song is accompanied by a comic book video clip that tells the story of a woman
with supernatural powers seeking to understand her half-reaper abilities and
another woman, chased by an evil army, seeking our half-reaper hero. It is
unusual and that is a good thing: it draws the audience in, turning each song into
a story chapter, which as a whole becomes like a movie or a comic book play. It
wades into the territory of rock opera and delivers a multi-media spectacle that
separates the band from almost any other live performance.
The show found its way to a close before 9 p.m. This is earlier than most
and perhaps the performances were shorter and a bit more rushed than
otherwise would have been the case. This certainly did not appear to have a
detrimental effect on the musical quality. One can only wish for more of a good
thing. Yet truth be told, no length of set would have fully sufficed in light of my
desire to hear great music by great artists. As no exception to this, I was left
wanting more and indeed, in the very near future, all of us will get just that, since
each band is in the process of working on a new album. New albums often
coincide with new tours, which although not identical to this one, will provide yet
another opportunity to witness the next stage in their respective journeys, while
also having the privilege to discover new music from the bands they will each
tour with on the next round. Until then, I will check out the new single drop by
Kaleido, the video released by Charcoal Tongue, and the latest comics in the
September Mourning saga.


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