As the deep winter chill makes its way up the east coast, a collective of otherworldly bands, DJs, and duos made their way to Brooklyn for the formidable 3-day excursion known as Flesh and Steel. The event serves as an homage to the voices of yesterday and the fresh faces of today in the realms of post-punk, synthwave, and industrial. I had the pleasure of catching brilliant up-and-comers, long standing veterans, and some absolute powerhouses from all sides of the dark underbelly. I attended both dates at Saint Vitus at Greenpoint and The Knockdown Center in Bushwick, and here’s a peek inside the machine at Flesh and Steel!
LATHE OF HEAVEN
Considering Flesh + Steel’s pension for 80’s alternative culture, it seems fitting that the first band to bring me into its throes was Lathe of Heaven. A band more in tune with the punk and post-punk ethos on the cusp of the 1970’s, Lathe of Heaven provided a four-piece blast of reverb-laden capital P Punk. With the release of their debut 3-song Demo earlier this year, Lathe of Heaven have demonstrated themselves to be one of the fiercest and most exciting bands in the New York underground scene. Capable of dishing out a tight performance with an acerbic ferocity that can only grow in time, I for one am excited to see where they go from here!
With the advent of indie sleaze making its return into the collective consciousness, it’s refreshing to see artists in the underground scene keeping its torch burning. Case and point: Erin Hoagg, AKA Rare DM. An analog synth sorceress and tongue-in-cheek songstress. Rare DM proved her skills as a formidable live act: she sang, screamed, danced, shadowboxed, and ventured into the crowd during her Saint Vitus set. Offering relatable darkwave and synth pop bangers touching on topics from breakups, monetary excess, and the nuances of modern dating. Erin Hoagg injects a sense of 21st-century ennui into her perfectly textured club tracks and moodier moments. Big single “Send Nudes” served as a perfect closer.
Canadian-bred, Germany-based darkwave duo Psyche brought a decades-spanning set. This included performances of their best known tracks like “The Brain Collapses,” “Unveiling the Secret,” and their cover of “Goodbye Horses” by Q Lazzarus, a dedication to the late New York singer/songwriter who passed away earlier this year. Led by frontman Darrin Huss, who brought enigmatic dancing and a full-throttle vocal performance throughout the show. Psyche demonstrated their unparalleled knack for embracing the drama and showmanship from the darkest depths of synthwave. Standout tracks “The Saint Became a Lush” and “Uncivilized” were personal favorites.
A ferocious 3-piece out of Belgium, A Split-Second served as another veteran. They’re a darkwave and EBM act who can bring the house down. With delicate and foreboding synthplay, shredding guitar lines from Chrismar Chayell, and the commanding vocals of frontman Marc Ickx. A Split-Second showcased a mastery of mood, aggression, and danceability. Set closer “Bend My Body Armor” practically bent the air in the room, creating a pulse-rattling blend of brute force and pure gothic kinetic energy.
The headlining act of Flesh + Steel, Boy Harsher showed their uncompromising dedication to the craft. With well-orchestrated bouts of sonic formidability. Frontwoman Jae Matthews and producer Gus Muller provided captivating audiences with an hour’s worth of their most lethal and attention-grabbing synthpop and cold wave. Digging through their discography, Boy Harsher wiped the dust off their phenomenal early singles like “Pain”, “Fate” and “LA,” while making room for new cuts from their latest release The Runner including “Give Me a Reason” and their single for the newest entry into the Halloween film saga with “Burn it Down.” Conveying anger, lust and desire in their rawest forms, Boy Harsher pulled all the stops and brought danceable selections of macabre seduction into a headlining performance for the ages.
Overall, I found Flesh + Steel to be a gripping, intense, and beautiful experience. A well-curated selection of bands and DJ’s brought serious levels of noise and finesse to a set of Brooklyn venues, and in doing so, created a spectacular experience for the fans of music that makes you move your feet and dance into the deep night. I already can’t wait for next year!