Whitehouse - Live Action 86, 13th October 2000 Red Rose, London, UK.
After having hosted the Extreme Music From Women launch event earlier this year, and been graced by William Bennett's presence as a guest DJ on several occasions, it seems that the London industrial club Hinoeuma finally managed to persuade him to break his resolution for Whitehouse not to play in the UK again. Not surprisingly, the gig announcement caused a sensation across the European scene, and the atmosphere in London the day before, when the first of the associated events took place, was already more that of a festival than anything else.
Thursday saw an impromptu gathering at The Plough, the central London pub favoured by the Great Beast, Aleister Crowley, in order to celebrate the 125th anniversary of that great man's birth. A small upstairs room accommodated an uncomfortably large crowd notably including Karl Blake of the Shock Headed Peters and a Swedish contingent lead by Cold Meat Industry associate Marten Sahlen. After a slow set up due to technical problems, John Murphy's Ministry of Love, Knifeladder noise side-project AntiValium and rising dark ambient prodigy Andrew Liles played intensely atmospheric sets, the small smoky room being totally dominated by the full size PA. Most memorably, all doors and windows were closed for Liles' set, which took place in complete darkness. I was lucky enough to acquire a scarce CD-R of the material he presented, which will hopefully be reviewed for Audioghoul in the near future. A progression from his set supporting Schloss Tegal, his threatening dark ambient drones were now enhanced not only by sudden high-end attacks reminiscent of Stratvm Terror, but by chillingly distorted maledictory vocals. Unfortunately the sub-bass rumbling was too much for Knifeladder's PA, which promptly blew after about half an hour. Worryingly, this was apparently the back-up system for the Whitehouse live action!
On Friday afternoon I picked up my house guest for the weekend, Thomas Ekelund AKA Mr. Winquist of Winquist/Virtanen. After introducing Thomas to feline industrial stars Cleopatra Velvetpaws and Galaxy Glitterpants back at my house, I received the generous and very welcome gift of a copy of almost every release in the Winquist/Virtanen discography (again, reviews should follow in due course). Preparing ourselves for the evening's insanity with a few drinks, we then rendezvoused with John, my bandmate in Maruta Kommand, for the journey to the venue.
When we eventually reached the Red Rose club at 8pm (no thanks to London Transport), we were greeted by the novel site of a huge crowd of industrial types drinking merrily in the beer garden, and soon found that the bar was crowded beyond anything ever seen at Hinoeuma before, even for the Genocide Organ performance earlier this year. Locating Elisabeth and Mason of RECTIVE, I was soon busy introducing people to one another and trying to get served.
Joining the huge queue into the hall at the rear of the building where Hinoeuma performances take place, we soon discovered just how many people had been drawn to this much anticipated event. When we had managed to get in, it was to a room crammed to capacity. This time, the program of events for the evening had been posted by the door, so when the harried sound crew lead by the redoubtable Knifeladder gentlemen were replaced on stage by a band, we knew that this was the Dachise/Vex collaborative set.
Despite what I'd heard about Dachise being a harsh noise unit, the two noisicians on stage presented an effective power electronics assault. Nothing particularly original or remarkable, they nevertheless provided suitable preparation for the main event.
An eager surge toward the stage heralded the coming of Whitehouse. The film screen behind the stage was shut off - this was one act who neither wanted nor needed supporting visuals. The sound was immediate and overwhelming, a relentless, spastically rhythmic bulldozer of thunderous earthquake bass and sizzling high-end squeals that drove the crowd back from the overloaded amp stacks on which the warning lights of the limiter glared throughout the set as never before, while the sound team fought bravely to ensure their survival. With the looming bearded presence of Peter Sotos hunched over an equipment table at stage right, and the ageless and perennially cool William Bennett, in leather coat and shades, similarly lurking at stage left, it was the small, bespectacled and unassuming figure of Philip Best who took the mike. Triumphantly celebrating his return to the band earlier this year which had ensured its future, the opener was the notorious 'Tit Pulp'. Those Whitehouse virgins in the audience who had been fooled by Best's unthreatening appearance got a severe shock as the one-time teenage mastermind of Consumer Electronics let loose with the tightly controlled rabid snarling vocals for which he is renowned. Already it was evident with this fast-paced, passionately hateful track that Whitehouse were on excellent form tonight, an impression reinforced by the obvious excitement of the crowd and the enthusiasm of the innocent Goth friends I had lured into attendance. Appropriately indeed under the circumstances, 'Tit Pulp' was followed by 'Thank Your Lucky Stars', William Bennett bantering lightly before the audience before the surging, shrieking synths and thumping rhythm of this old Whitehouse hit kicked in. His gutteral, sarcastic Scots-accented howl and barborously sexual stage presence were as highly charged as ever as he strutted and posed for the numerous cameras in attendance. Meanwhile Peter Sotos was providing his usual ogreish cheerleading, exchanging taunts and thrown beer with the crowd and calling for applause. By contrast, during the pauses in his own instrumental contribution, Philip Best restricted himself to casually smoking a cigarette. Next up was the even older hit 'Rock and Roll', followed unexpectedly by a new track. Clutching a wad of papers, Bennett read surprisingly intelligibly, given the volume of the 'music', from a long and casually sadistic story apparently concerning the mistreatment of an anorexic girl. The most bizarre part of the experience came with a detailed recipe including a full list of ingredients, with one of the most notorious figures in industrial music making a most unlikely Delia Smith. At the conclusion of the story, he tossed the redundant script into the audience and left the stage. Somewhat surprised by these events, we were then treated to a lengthy, crushingly loud solo instrumental by Philip Best, with Peter Sotos whooping up rounds of applause. Eventually he disappeared too, leaving the smiling Best to hold the stage alone against the hecklers calling for more active sonic violence. Finally Bennett and Sotos returned for the grand finale, a chaotic extended version of 'A Cunt Like You'. Now stripped to the waist and with 'scapegoat' scrawled in red across his chest, Bennett took turns with Best to rant the familiar lyrics over the rapidly stuttering spastic rhythm. Amusingly, I noticed a woman just in front of me was actually dancing, while others confined themselves to thrashing convulsively to the merciless waves of distortion and drunkenly singing along. Jabbering hysterically in their differing and complementary styles, both vocalists did their damnedest to shout themselves hoarse for the appreciative audience as they rampaged across the stage. Incredibly, the speakers lasted right up to the end, as glasses smashed and the threat of violence briefly hovered in the air. In the event, this was to prove to be a Whitehouse performance with no obvious injuries, although my right ear, too close to a speaker stack, was numb for the rest of the night. As the crowd thinned out, broken glass and spilt beer were revealed underfoot.
Intent on staying to the end, we stocked up on Whitehouse CDs at the Cheeses International stall before settling down with fresh pints for the final performance. Faced with the ridiculously unfair challenge of following up what we had just witnessed, Wertham/? acquitted themselves strikingly well. Over a backing film of ethnic persecutions of every type and era, choice scenes from Pasolini's 'Salo' and anti-Semitic propaganda, they delivered an impressive TESCO-style political power electronics set with declamatory vocals, in a similar vein to The Grey Wolves or vocalist Marco Deplano's collaborative supergroup with them and Con-Dom, Death Pact International. At any normal Hinoeuma event, this formidable performance would easily have been the highlight of the evening, and they quickly revived the interest of what remained of the vast thronfg that had gathered to witness Whitehouse's return to the UK live scene. Additional kudos must be granted to Marco also for his stylish and amusing 'snuff'' T-shirt.
Following an enjoyable day at the shops, Saturday evening saw Thomas and myself heading to the old Horse Hospital for a literary soiree organised by Creation Books, Peter Sotos' publisher, to see the great man deliver a rare spoken word performance. Immediately upon entering the bar-windowed room set up for the evening's proceedings, we spotted Messrs. Bennett and Best among the small crowd. Just as we had hoped, Creation had a stall present selling Sotos' much sought-after novels, and at reduced prices! Pleased with our purchases, we fortified ourselves with alcohol before the program opened with Sotos' reading. Clad in a raincoat, the highly notorious author first appeared to be an absolute pussycat, extroverted, jovial and very funny, before revealing a severely caustic wit as he bantered with us, asking us questions and gently mocking the responses as he regaled us with self-deprecating, satirically presented readings of his acid printed observations in his heavy American accent. As smooth and assured in his performance as the great Henry Rollins, he revealed himself unexpectedly to be a natural at this type of performance. Most interestingly, he revealed the carefully crafted satirical intent of his work, often overlooked in the sheer traumatising vileness of the content.
After Sotos concluded to enthusiastic applause, we were treated to a riotously comic and grotesquely obscene story from Zodiac Mindwarp's Mark Manning, intense s/m erotica from Mark Hejnar and some excellent short films by the gentleman who had filmed Whitehouse the previous evening, including a collage biography of Jeffrey Dahmer. Eventually the whole crowd, including Messrs. Sotos, Bennett and Best, retired the nearest pub, until closing time finally sent us all regretfully home to sleep it off.
Andi Penguin / Null:Void magazine.
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