Triton Festival is a three-day music festival of Industrial/EBM/Synthpop/Gothic bands in New York City. It was filled with top names, and the tickets were cheap, so it didn’t take a lot of arm-twisting on Kelsey and Christina’s parts to convince me to attend. I wanted to rise to the challenge of living out of a carry-on bag for the trip, so in the most impractical (and totally goth) way, I discarded comfy shoes for killer boots, filled my tiny Shampoo, Conditioner, and Body Wash bottles with Glenlivet, Canadian Club, and Absolut, and stuck to socks and underclothes that could be discarded should I acquire too many souvenirs.
I flew from home, with one stop in O’Hare. On the flight in, I saw Fermilab in the west suburbs of Chicago, and my heart leapt a little. Smashing atoms together and discovering the secrets of the universe was my dream as a child, and working at Fermilab Particle Accelerator Laboratory is why I studied physics in college (before I switched majors to Hooch Parties and women of questionable morality). I also spent my grade school days viewing nuclear weapons as ancient WW2 technology and thought that with Fermilab at my disposal, I could do better. I may have been a bit of a nihilistic misanthrope as a pre-teen. Upon my arrival at Newark, my friend Su picked me up to play tour guide to me and make certain I made it to my accommodations in one piece.
After having some chocolates from Holsten’s Ice Cream and taking the Turnpike in, we arrived at the Hostel. We were ahead of Kelsey, so we did some windows shopping. We found antique nautical light fixtures, solid copper doors, and studded leather jock straps. I couldn’t find a suitable enough excuse to buy one. Kelsey eventually made it in, and we concluded that the Hostel was a no-go. It looked like a location for Resident Evil, and we didn’t have enough inventory slots for ammo and herbs. All it needed was ghostly child giggles and graffiti in blood to complete the scene. Plus, the wifi was out (commence blood-curdling screams)! I called up our first choice hostel and found they had a new vacancy, so we moseyed our way uptown to claim the room.
The Carlton Arms was amazing! Every surface of every wall was painted by amateur artists, including the rooms, hallways, and stairwells. There was a skeleton sitting in the lobby, paint buckets nailed to the walls as signs, and complimentary cats that would waltz straight into the rooms for snuggles. Every single room had its own style, and the room for our first night was Yellow-Acid-Trip. We unpacked, I set up our mini-bar and music, and we made our way to Fitzgerald’s pub next door to join friends for dinner.
I excused myself to go attend the VIP setup at the Grammercy theater. The VIP treatment that first night consisted of basically standing around in the venue early and running into the performers as they were prepping for the evening, half of which I already knew anyway. After saying hi to Brendin Ross, Rexx Arcana, Dracos von Strecker, and Tom Shear, the crowd surged inside and the performances commenced.The sonic bombardment came in the form of the the power-noise synthhammer of Alter der Ruine, and it only got louder from there. FGFC820 punched me in the ears with “Homeland Insecurity”, only to be followed up with Nachtmar running jackboot rhythms over the crowd. The plaintive sincerity of Tom Shear (Assemblage 23) washed over the crowd, and I found myself singing along with “Damaged” at top volume. The Cruxshadows did a mindblowing set, both audibly and visually, with dancers pirouetting to the music, violins, guitars, synths, and drums backing, and at one point Rogue even grabbing a stool and standing in the center of the crowd to sing among his fans. This is the point at which the shortness of sleep and tightness of boots sent us sleepward, missing out on Unter Null, unfortunately.
We got up and had the most amazing bagels ever (St Vivateur included). They were larger than appendicitis, but slightly smaller than encephalitis. We had many over the next few days. Kelsey, Christina, and I walked to Obscura Antiques, known for being the shop featured on TLC’s Oddities. For such a small store, we spent an inordinately large amount of time there, attention being lost in the eclectic chaos of skulls, taxidermy, antique medical supplies, and items bizarre and unique. The apothecary jars included such anachronistic cures as Radium, Morphine, Laudinum, Vaginal Astringent, and other tonics and poisons. There were terrifying surgical instruments, bats and spiders trapped in lucite, and the lifeless, accusing gaze of a Rhesus monkey from atop the shelves. I opted for an antique syringe, not forseeing the trouble that would cause me trying to get through security flying home.
Kelsey and I continued on towards Jekyll and Hyde’s, a horror themed restaurant. After finding ourselves at the wrong Jekyll & Hyde’s (in Soho), we grabbed a taxi and scooped up Lynne and the other Christina so we could go to the proper location. Upon arrival, the doorman shoved all four of us into a tiny phone booth, giving us a series of knocks and passphrases to repeat. After we did such, the back wall of the phone booth opened up, releasing us into an otherwise empty room. When spikes popped out of the ceiling and started to descend, I found being the tallest in the group to not be such a great thing anymore, but a secret door popped open in time for us to escape. The next room held a creepy old man in a top hat who, upon sensing us as “Children of Darkness” made us swear an oath not to reveal the secrets beyond the secret bookcase. Therefore, I am forbidden from sharing specifics, suffice to say that there may or may not be talking heads on the walls, mad scientist shenanigans, a comedically insulting gargoyle, paintings with moving eyes, vampiric mermaids, and a doll with a knife that I made angry. I ordered us a bottle of wine, and we enjoyed wonderful food, amusing renditions of poetry, and creeptastic hosts while trying to convince Anthony (our waiter) to come to Triton. We had such a great time that we missed the first and second bands completely, but I wouldn’t change a minute of it.
We went to hail a taxi, but they couldn’t fit the five of us, so Christina G and Lynne went on without us. While awaiting another cab, we noticed the rickshaw bicycles, and opted for it. It was $3 a minute, but it couldn’t take more than 10-15 minutes, right? And I was taking care of it, since my Canadian friends were having bank card issues plus I had a ton of overtime pay. I like to share when I can. So we got onboard, and rode through the nighttime daylight of Times Square, soaking in the sights and breeze. Tourists seemed amused by the sight of a trio of goths in a rickshaw, and were snapping pics of us as we went by, so we gave the Princess Di wave as if we were on a parade float. It makes me wish I had candy to toss. We almost almost got taken out by a taxi that turned left right in front of us, barely missing the front tire of the bicycle and causing us to veer wildly. But we survived, and disembarked at our destination. 30 MINUTES LATER. Good thing there’s overtime pay…
Upon arrival at the venue for the last two nights (Irving Plaza), security took away my camera, declaring it “too professional”, and leaving me with only my phone camera for the evening. The photographer in me felt crippled, and wondered how many hours of Photoshop were going to be necessary to pull of any decent photos at all. We went upstairs to have our collective socks rocked off. Psyclon 9 was heavier than a black hole and louder than a supernova, and Kelsey and I just looked at each other, maniacal grins splitting our faces Joker-style, knowing exactly what band we were going to type into Google after the festival. We are officially fans, Psyclon 9. Job well done, indeed. Faderhead followed up, pounding out TZDV like he was possessed by the geist of an angry panzermensch. (TZDV=Tanz Zwo Drei Vier, but I still like to imagine he is yelling “Cats Don’t Like Beer!!!”) I made my way downstairs, where a friend surprisingly accosted my tonsils before I could muffle an awkward “Hello”. And, being after midnight, it was obviously time for London After Midnight to perform!
They put on a good show, and were holding a raffle for Randy Mathias’ old bass guitar. I sang along to “Kiss” and “Psycho Magnet”, reliving many a night of smoke machines and black leather at Neo in Chicago. Matt Setzer spun like some giant Gothpache, while Sean crooned with a voice of decadence. They held the raffle, but no one responded to the ticket number. They finished their set, and afterward Randy came down front, looking at us, and started pushing his bass over the rails. I put my hand underit so it wouldn’t fall, and Kelsey grabbed the neck. When I saw that she had it, I let go, awaiting him climbing over, only to see him turn and walk away. WHAT!?! DID HE JUST GIVE AWAY HIS BASS!?! OMIGAWDYESHEDID. He . Just. Handed. It. To. Us. And at this point, “Us” was Kelsey, who had a smile so big she was in danger of a full frontal facial explosion, knuckles white clutching the neck of the bass in a death-grip. We went downstairs and hung with Randy a bit, where he told us stories of what that bass had been through over the years, and pointed out the signatures on it. Not wanting to be laden with a guitar (plus wanting to spirit it away to safety like a squirrel with an acorn), Kelsey and I went ahead and walked back to the Hostel, missing out on The Birthday Massacre and Dawn of Ashes. She even accidentally let a diminutive uncontrolled “Whee!” escape her lips as we stopped by Dunkin Donuts to acquire Pumpkin Munchkins. We were too excited for sleep, so we spent the remainder of the evening playing the bass and laughing it up.
The next morning began with our ritual of bagel worship (complete with random tombstone thing hiding behind the trash can of the bagel shop), and plans for clichéd tourism. We may or may not have witnessed a car robbery, discovered Nikola Tesla’s plaque (with an empty vodka offering before it), and found the official bar of How I Met Your Mother. We attempted to see the Empire State Building, but realized our folly upon seeing the throng of security and metal detectors. I decided to give it a go, regardless. I took off jewelry, boots, and belt. BEEP! Okay, here goes more jewelry and earrings. BEEP! Now the security guard was telling me to take off more clothing. I knew I had metal in my rib support (for a cracked rib) and OTHER *ahem* piercing, and weighed the option of both getting naked in public and paying $26 each to hit the 86th floor, and possibly another $17 a piece to go to the top, and decided it just wasn’t that high on my list of priorities. That’s when the security lady became the biggest (censored litany of profanity) ever, shoving the tray full of my stuff at me, yelling that I have to go now. She looked at me angrily, as if my not getting naked somehow ruined her day, and kept pushing the tub at me, while I instead tried to ignore her cuntbaggery to put my boots and belt back on. I’m sure she feels that she somehow thwarted a terrorist plot to goth up the observation deck. Who knows, we might have spilled some Nice’N’Easy #124 Blue-Black or gotten mascara smudges on the windows! Oh, the horror! I’m just too metal for the Empire State Building, apparently.
By the way, the Empire State building hasn’t been the tallest building since 1972, and is now the 23rd tallest building in the world. It definitely isn’t worth $43 to climb it, especially seeing as the Sears Tower is only $12 (and taller), and the John Hancock is free, and barely shorter. Plus, dear lady, you wear a doorman’s uniform, not Swat Team body armor. Bring the power-trip down just a notch, will’ya?
After that debacle, we decided to swing back by Jekyll and Hyde’s for drinks. I wanted to get one of the collectible steins after seeing the one Kelsey got, so we sauntered up to the bar with a couple of frozen drinks in mind. The bartender took our order, and then walked to the other end of the bar to type it in. That’s when Kelsey pointed out that the other bartender was giving me a glare. I haven’t been in NYC long enough to have angry guys giving me the stinkeye, and I tipped generously the night prior, so I was flabbergasted as to the reason for his vexing glare. Our bartender came back, and leaned over to us, in hushed tones revealing, “The other bertender thinks your ar eone of the Hardy Boyz. Y’know, the wrestlers.” My tiny knowledge of wrestling came into focus, and I inventoried my outfit. Fishnet shirt. Forearm gauntlets. Thin dreds. Oddly sculpted beard. Black jeans. White belt. OH MY GOD, I STOLE JEFF HARDY’S OUTFIT! He must be thinking that “Jeff Hardy” really let himself go. Then the bartender asked me to do him a favor and autograph something. I acquiesced for pure shits and giggles, and he scrambled for something to write on. Living in a post-paper society, he settled for an olive jar. I had a sharpie on me (for getting autographs, not GIVING THEM), and tried to think up something douchebaggy to write to Brian, the other bartender. “Hey B, Stay Frosty! *impossible scribble*” The bartender took it over to Brian who in turn started exclaiming “I told you! I knew it!” Our bartender eventually returned, comping my drink and mug in exchange for the entertainment value. That olive jar is probably still sitting on that counter right now, with a proud Brian telling customers how one of the Hardy Boyz was here just the other day. He may even take that lid home and tuck it away, to pass on to his children.
We headed back and grabbed a bottle of cheap wine to take up to the room, throwing metal horns with Muppets on the way, drinking as we prepared for the biggest night of the festival. After listening to some Jonathan Coulton (did I say overlords, I meant protectors!) and MC Frontalot, I skipped out early to attend the VIP meet’n’greet. Combichrist nor Grendel were in attendance, but I hung out with my friend Jonathan and the guys from MyParasites. When the doors opened, they opened the stage with an explosion of melodic cacophony, and I went upstairs to hang out on the VIP balcony. I had my camera this time, leaving the larger lens at the room so it wouldn’t look “professional” this time, and got some great photographs from the box seats. Life Cried followed up, keeping the energy building like a fusion reactor. God Module took the stage, haunting our collective eardrums with the techno-banshee wails of an electronic epitaph. The Dreaming came on next, and Chistopher Hall included some hits from his previous project, Stabbing Westward. Their whole set was amazeballs, but the entire audience sang in unison to the chorus of “What Do I Have to do”. He was also one of the most genuine, down-to-Earth guys I’ve ever met. He is good people. I would loan him money, had I not already given it to Frontal Boundary. 😛
Next was the BIG TWO. The two biggest bands I flew all the way from Kentucky to New York to see. Grendel came on, grinding metallic screams over an undertow of synths, sinuously coiling around the room with staccato machine-gun percussion. Every song was a supersonic surgical strike, and I found myself enraptured by Miss Mel Allezbleu. Yep, Amelia Arsenic has competition for my dumbfounded blabbering. Upon meeting her afterwards, I found my tongue just as inept at conversation and my game just as dead as I was in 8th grade, clinging to the wall of the high school cafeteria during the homecoming dance, unable to complete a single line of witty dialogue or maintain eye contact. I could only somewhat half-mutter “pretty”, and I don’t think it was even in English.
Then Combichrist. No, not the Combichrist on the children’s show The Electric Company, nor the Combichrist boy band from 1992. Not the Combichrist breakfast flakes, nor the Combichrist game on the Intellivision Game System. Not just any personal saviour from silent bondage, but the One True Saviour. Yep, THAT Combichrist. And they lived up to their reputation, flagellating the sins of obeisance from our bones while giving the unholy sacrament of digitized rebellion. We bore witness to their lyrical (LIRYCAL) martyrdom, and made sacrifice of the flesh in the mosh pit. The set was an apocalyptic event, with locust guitars and blood throbbing drums, Andy proselytizing the masses in screaming communion.
In short, not too shabby at all.
Kelsey felt the cold clutches of sleep dragging her away, so we made our way back, skipping on the Ludovico Technique (although I hear they are pretty awesome, and they are on my to-do list). That’s okay. Combichrist is a good note to go out on, and a hard act to follow. She wasn’t the only one exhausted, either, I believe we both closed our eyes on New York City for the last time within moments of stumbling into our room.
Last morning, last bagels, last goodbyes. Everyone is there, Christina G, Lynne, Kelsey and I, and Kelsey points out how, with our collected luggage, guitar, and fashion sense, we probably look like a band. But all good things come to an end, and we went outside where Thomas was picking Kelsey up for their long drive back. I rode down to a record store, and then made my way to the subway to Hoboken. While awaiting Su (giving me a ride to the airport), I looked across the water at the little Island of Manhattan, and all of the big adventures that happened there in so few of days. From the deterring metal detectors to fraudulent autographs given to sharing a drink with Combichrist to shampoo mini-bars to surprise gift guitars to Hindi walls to Vaginal Astringent to ventriloquist dummies singing Britney Spears to near-death rickshaw rides to sex-offender Muppets, the last four days were a treasure. But the best part was being surrounded by friends. Christina K, the excitable bundle of joy, Lynne, the stylish woman of poise, Christina G, the sincere and endearing, and Kelsey, the sweet, intelligent, and hilarious. Su, John, Brendin, Rexx, Dracos, Mike, Neska, Iam, Anabel, Jet, Annabel, and new friends such as Matt, Thomas, Amanda, Andy, Mel, Panda, and Carl. This is why I came. If Kelsey and Christina G hadn’t implored me to come, I would have stayed home, saving money but coming out the poorer by the loss of the adventure. I love you guys. You mean the world to me.
And now, the countdown to Kinetik 7!