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Our favorite sets from the Brooklyn music festival /
by Jenn Pelly and Liz Pelly

There are screams you don't forget. Foreplay is the duo of writer and artist Jane Chardiet with Chris Hansell, a former member of the Men whose guttural hardcore death-shrieks contributed significantly to that band's best record ("Leave Home", 2011). Together, Chardiet and Hansell make industrial noise that is performative and utterly engrossing. This ten-minute set was alarmingly direct, packing more raw intensity than most bands manage in a proper set. They began with an audio sample culled from the depths of YouTube, wherein a girl describes her obsession with vomiting, a disturbing case of bulimia. She prepares to force herself to throwup: "My little brother is probably going to hear me vomiting but I don't give a fuck." The duo's punishing power electronics drop. In turn, Chardiet and Hansell scream their souls clean, bodies bent, chests beat; they viscerally purge their own emotions. Kim Gordon was headlining that night so perhaps I had her on my mind. I recalled a quote from her 1983 Artforum essay on live music; "People pay to see others believe in themselves." Each scream was a reminder. You can purge what has wronged you and keep what makes you sane. -jp

During the Northside festival I put together a showcase featuring Kim Gordon's noise project, Body/Head, and Kathleen Hanna's new band, the Julie Ruin. These are two artists who have massively influenced the way I relate to art. In weeks leading up to the show, at the metal bar Saint Vitus in Brooklyn, I watched the video for "Bull in the Heather" on repeat and thought I might cry of excitement that night. But I don't have heroes. No tears were shed. Body/Head will be one of my favorite live noise acts for as long as they continue, abstract guitar poetry that's equally abrasive and droning and meditative. It's a set I could watch for hours without once recalling the disappointing illusion of the past. -jp

In 1997, Kathleen Hanna took a break from her riot-grrrl band Bikini Kill to hole up in her bedroom and make a lo-fi pop record, Julie Ruin. It’s one of my favorite albums and includes one of my favorite songs of all time, “The Punk Singer”, for which the recent documentary about Kathleen Hanna is named. (We also included it on the “Media Manifesto” mixtape in issue 1.) In 2010, Hanna announced a new band using the same name, The Julie Ruin, with Carmine Covelli, Sara Landeau, Kathi Wilcox, and Kenny Mellman. At Northside, the Julie Ruin played its first show since 2010, and only its second show ever, at Saint Vitus, as part of a showcase curated by Pitchfork. The line-up also included Foreplay, Majical Cloudz, and Body/Head; each set conveyed a sense of emotional urgency in its own way. The Julie Ruin’s six-song set was made of mostly songs set to appear on the band’s first album Run Fast out September 3. But halfway through they played one from that classic 90s solo album; the opening track, “Radical Or Pro-Parental.” Having just seen The Punk Singer a few months ago, it was hard to watch Hanna perform without the context that documentary provided about the past few years of her life; her health-related obstacles, her disappearance from music, and frustrations with the music industry in general. Her powerful delivery of piercing shouts and raised fists would have felt moving on its own merit, but in that context, Hanna’s return to the stage felt triumphant. -lp

I recently attended the New York cultural event of the year. It was Vårmakon, a collaborative performance at a dark Greenpoint warehouse between New York noise artist Margaret Chardiet and the Danish industrial band Vår. At this May show, I was especially intrigued by the contributions from Loke Rahbek, who runs the experimental tape label Posh Isolation and also performs in the black metal band Sexdrome, the dark electronic dance act Lust for Youth, and the harsh noise project Damien Dubrovnik. With Vårmakon, Rahbek was possessed. He screamed cold, like mad, with a transfixed gaze towards no one at all. He engaged in a sickly beautiful ritual of dousing himself in water, smothering himself in dirt, then all-but drowning himself intentionally in the remaining bath of mud. Of course, I had to see his solo performance at Saint Vitus during Northside (a show I helped coordinate with Pitchfork). This was an early set opening for Iceage and the room was thin. He performed bodily power electronics so loud I could physically feel the vibrations through my seat several feet away on the couch. But I couldn't see Rahbek or his process, his head buried under the massive, tattered suitcase that housed his gear. The depth of noise made my teeth chatter; the barrier preserved the magic. -jp

Last year while researching a profile of the Danish rock band Lower, I was sent a photograph including many members of the current Copenhagen punk scene, which was assembled for an article in the NME. I noticed in the picture that there was only one girl. The punk and noise community there seemed interesting so I was surprised by the lack of women, but nonetheless I was curious to learn more about who she was. I discovered her name is Frederikke Hoffmeier and her power electronics project is called Puce Mary and that she also plays the drums in a band called Timeless Reality. I watched videos online and listened to some recordings from tapes on Posh Isolation and my interest only peaked. She has toured with Iceage and opened for them at Saint Vitus during Northside, an absorbing set that felt veiled in mystery and distance in a way that remained inviting. -jp

Here is my review of Lower's set at Saint Vitus: they are one of the best rock acts in Copenhagen or anywhere at the moment, and they played all of the hits. If you miss their set at the Acheron in Brooklyn next week you are a total fool. -jp

Lust For Youth is the solo synth-centered songwriting project of Swedish producer Hanes Norrvide, an industrial pop project that is simultaneously dark and light; harsh and celebratory. Lust For Youth played an enveloping string of songs between sets by Puce Mary and Lower. There was something poetic about watching my one friend totally lose it dancing in an otherwise completely still crowd; a pointed reminder of the different ways this sort of intensity can consume an audience. -lp

I forgot to bring earplugs to 285 Kent. Minutes into Destruction Unit’s first song my friend ripped me a piece of notebook paper from her journal that we crumbled into makeshift buffers. It still sort of felt like a knife was probing my eardrum. Aggressive washes of noise, prickly guitars pointed in every direction, slow-burning cycles of distorted acid riffs. Destruction Unit are a 5-piece from Phoenix, Arizona, who you may remember we mentioned a few weeks ago, when discussing the Ascestic House “tapes to prisoners” program, organized in part by the band’s guitarist Jes Aurelius. I had never really heard this band’s music until this show. Mid set, weird liquids started dripping from the ceiling, splashing my calves and bare shoulders but I barely noticed. It was one of the best sets I saw all weekend so I saw them again the next night. I am excited for their August 20 album for Sacred Bones. –lp

Merchandise are my favorite at the moment. For me and many of my friends, their punk-spirited experimental pop missives have changed things. Merchandise have spent years romanticizing notions of self-creation and change, and they feel like more than a band because their path has embodied a set of principles for living. Anyway, every time I see this band it is better, more kinetic, more alive and exciting than the last. This was my third time seeing Merchandise at a packed 285 Kent (or fifth, if you include side projects) and I will never get sick of watching punk kids stage-dive along to this searing, poetic dance pop. My favorite moment at this particular show was probably the explosive performance of their essential cassette track "What I Want/What I Wanted" as well as the rest. There is a clip on YouTube of Merchandise playing in 2011 that a friend sent over last fall. Maybe 10 people are in attendance and literally none of them are moving while the band work themselves into a total frenzy, as they do. "I feel like I haven't even been here the whole time," Carson Cox said. "I've been somewhere else." It sure as hell felt like Merchandise was at 285 Kent that night, though I suppose we'll never know for sure. -jp

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