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Dark Castle Festival 2010

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For its third edition, the DARK CASTLE FESTIVAL takes place at the bohemian heart of Paris, less than 200m away from the renowned Moulin Rouge, in ‘Le Divan du Monde ‘, the ancient café-concert which used to have as regular customers such personalities as Charles Baudelaire, Toulouse-Lautrec and Pablo Picasso.
Despite its vintage-looking style which tends to keep the old theatre atmosphere, the club has been recently renovated (2009) paying special attention to the sound and lights systems - which in fact are perfect for concerts as well as for DJ mixes. (and I personally tested the two!)

The aim of "the only Gothic music festival in France" was to represent "all kinds of Dark music" but in the end - I must say - this edition has been totally electro-oriented, as it could already been noticed from the agenda: Hocico and Das Ich as co-headliners, Straftanz, the four French locals (despite their names) The CNK, Arsch Dolls, Herrschaft, Schwester Seziert and the Japanese band Gothika.

Thanks to some technical problems on the Parisian subway (which always happen when you have something important to do), I missed the first gig, Schwester Seziert.
The "band" actually is the solo project of Arsch Dolls keyboarder Jonathan Piat, whose recent release ‘Annexe’ left its mark on the French electro-industrial scene with an aggressive, elaborated and danceable sound, hard and cold as the Cold-War, leitmotif of the concept album.
Too bad I missed it, given that I really appreciated ‘Annexe’. Anyway I asked around and somebody said the gig was boring though the music was excellent. My thought: sometimes being alone might compromise a show, not to mention the fact that some kinds of music often turn better on the dance floor than on stage. Hope I could witness with my own eyes next time!

When at least I arrived to ‘Le Divan du Monde’, furious at the subway delay and fucking sweaty from the tropical temperature, I found myself with two good news: the first one was the unexpected air-conditioning inside the club and the second the fact that Herrschaft – the second group – was about to start the show.
It’s the first time I see Herrschaft live. I’ve been fascinated by the philosophy of this Parisian combo born in 2004, who develops a dualistic concept based on the cyberpunk idea of a future where humanity, having reached its evolutionary peak, cohabit in harmony - thanks to technology - in a purified world. On the other hand, this rise is followed by an unavoidable fall and the vanity of men who have tried to replace the Gods is punished by the coming back of a new age of Chaos.
The music totally fits in and the band really rises up to its expectations. Their combination between extreme metal and industrial is successful and capable of carrying the (still) few people watching away. A glowing audience sings, asks for songs and this rattles the four guys who are going wild on the stage. A throwing of glittering confetti precedes the last song during which an additional singer appears: it’s the drummer _Max_ who due to "personal reasons" (as reported from the official website) doesn’t take part at the concert (his sub is Thorgon from MadOnAGun) but at least makes a cameo. The show finishes and the guys deserve a long applause. Good job!

Before Gothika gig takes place, we’re all forced to stand a long long waiting. The stage being not yet ready, I use the occasion to explore the place. The decoration of the club-theatre is fabulous, everything is in 19th century style from structure to furniture as far as bars and the beautiful purple curtain; most of all I fall in love with some display-windows showing nifty miniatures. Too cool!

People arrived little by little and under the stage a larger number of cyber-guys started to gather.
At last Gothika arrived: side by side, electric drummer Ricky and synth-keyboarder - started to play, while in the middle on top of a higher platform, Andro stood wearing a red kimono (which later on will fall down revealing a military woman dress – no secrets about the sexual ambiguity of the front man). When he starts to sing ambience gets warmer and people begin to dance, following the ebullient - who can’t stand still for a single moment. The pet-band of Eastern Europe – the Japanese Gothika have been adopted by Germany but play as regulars in Poland as in Russia or Lithuania – gives to Parisian audience a perfect example of their particular so-called "sexed up electronica" which finally is a fine wedding between classical EBM and that traditional ‘Japanese touch’ which issues from Andro’s sung. During all the show the duo – Ricky actually stands still as his drums – keeps a continual dialogue with the audience, announcing songs, making people sing or simply spurring everybody. People answer dancing and clapping hands and participation peaks when Andro announces the Enola Gay cover…sooo damn happily danceable!
The gig nearly comes to an end, Gothika plays two more songs, warmly thank the reactive audience and disappear behind the white curtain (to reappear after a while among people and stay for the rest of the festival). Personal opinion: engaging show but the way of singing is somewhat a little boring.

Once again the waiting is damn long but at least gives people the possibility of meeting each other, exchanging comments, recovering, smoking, drinking, going outside to enjoy the summer heat and so on – just to see the glass as half-full! As for me, who am alone, waiting is definitely boring.

At last the curtain raises and reveals what at first sight seems to be something midway between a ghoulish feast and a cemetery view. The lights are down except for the little red-light-chains which shape some latex corpses. Arsch Dolls enter showing a gore-bloody face-painting to make Finnish Lordi green with envy; with the wild backing of the Parisian audience music starts (though interrupted at first by some technical problems with the mics). The Southern French trio (I guess it’s the favourite one of the festival from the shouting all around me) gives life to a real SHOW. In fact, the band compensates a pretty simple and ordinary EBM putting on an interactive live performance like the best gore B-movies of the ‘80s, with a zombie dancer (integral part of the band and considered as the fourth member) who bursts into the scene, a knife in her hand gutting corpses and showing bloody latex entrails which are offered to the musicians – who pretend to eat them - as to the frenzied audience which is invited to do the same (and actually do it!). The gore-peak is reached in the final part, when singer Dolly turns on a chainsaw, slays a corpse, jumps on it and feasts on bleeding fake guts. People give show their appreciation by shouting and wildly dancing. The show ends leaving the impression of having been shorter than the previous ones.
My opinion: cool to see them live once or twice; as for music, good to dance, trite to listen to - surely the gore-show is easier to remember.

Another long waiting which gives me at least the possibility to write down some notes on the last concert and the white curtain raised again.

It’s the turn of The CNK, ex Count Nosferatu Kommando, became Cosa Nostra Klub in 2005, when they reformed for the second time. The band, the last one of the locals, receives a hot welcoming despite a lowered audience. Since 1996, when they start as a black metal band, French metal-heads never stop to worship them and they’re damn right! This martial industrial-metal combo with its peculiar smart lyrics and its military soviet-like disguise really does hit you like an eyesore!
For this live performance they have borrowed Zoe, the bass-guitarist from Herrschaft, who actually matches very well. "Dinner is ready" opens fire, the show begins and goes on with songs coming almost entirely from "L’Hymne à la Joie" (2007). Guitar sound and voice are violently trenchant like the blade of a knife while the accurate rhythm section gives the impression of an air raid. When the moment of "Die Holzhammermethode" comes, a guest wearing a balaclava appears a long hammer in his hands, threatening the band members with his weapon and singing some pieces. Audience is conquered and during the whole concert people show participation singing along with Mr. Hreidmarr - the charismatic singer - moshing and insistently requesting "Get a Gun".
Finally the band satisfies the request and announces the last song. The hall seems to collapse: it’s time to perform "Get a Gun" and it’s up to everybody, not only The CNK! Like the last firework louder and lasting longer, the last song is the final nuclear bomb for tonight and everybody goes really hard at it. The show ends and war is over: we are all exhausted but damn satisfied. CNK fucking rules!

During the waiting after The CNK brilliant show, an official announcement comes to ruin our hyper mood: Das Ich, who is supposed to perform before Hocico, will be missing due to a car accident occurred in Germany on their way to Paris. According to their manager words, which are referred by the speaker, things seem serious (actually after a few days, we found out about a head trauma of the singer Stefan Ackermann who has been hospitalized) and for the band will be impossible to take part to the festival. A sad "Ohhh!" passes through the theatre. The speaker then announces that for such reason, Straftanz show will be extended with two more songs.

And there they are at last, Straftanz! I really like their highly engaging "industrial-streetfighting" noise which immediately pushes you to dance and - it’s the first time I gonna see them live - I’m curious about their live performance because I’m pretty sure it works better on the dance floor than live.
The first ten minutes of the show seem to prove I am right: with jing on the left part of the stage and –jl- on the right, both of them mixing the intro, despite –jl-‘s efforts in trying to stir up the audience, music starts but still a little bit slowly (if the word is allowed dealing with Straftanz!). But when k-x finally gets on the scene everything suddenly changes. Damn, this man really kicks ass!! His infectious energy immediately catches you and just like the Pied Piper with mice, we can’t help dancing and waving hands at his signs.
The whole lengthened Straftanz performance is a WHOLE LOT OF FUN and looks more like a-night-in-Oktoberfest than a gothic festival. The trio, enriched by two smiling dancers, really does revel and people immediately catch and return the good vibrations even singing the German lyrics (seeing French people singing in German is a once-in-a-lifetime thing, I assure you)! k-x is possessed, jumps off the stage to join the audience and let them sing, jumps again on the platform and announces a brand new song never performed live before - "Monkey say monkey do" – sung by jing (chorus by k-x). With "Tanz kaputt" audience almost reaches the 7th heaven (even if given the hot temperature we could more likely be in hell) but the very peak of the whole show is the final part with "Straftanz". The girl-dancer in fact, probably too tired or too hot, proposes a trade encouraging people of the first lines to get on stage. It’s the beginning of Armageddon: everybody jumps on overwhelming the band and dances on the platform under the amused eyes of the whole combo. It’s a real freak-show, awful to look at frankly, but damn funny (search for videos on youtube if you don’t believe me!): it’s the worthy end of an incredible rave/concert! Now I can happily assert I was wrong with Straftanz live!*
*Please note that the band’s Oktoberfest-mood cheerfully kept on and after a well-deserved rest they mixed up with the audience enjoying the company of the fans. Nice guys!!

The final waiting is definitely the longest one (also due to the missing of Das Ich) and gives us some time to recover, go out buying sandwiches or beers at the nearest supermarket, dining at a café or simply chatting with others.
When darkness is about to fall, the time to go back in comes. The long-awaited headliner Hocico starts its show. What am I supposed to say? I’d seen them for the last time in Berlin at E-tropolis something like 15 days before; over there the gig was terrific, with some bug-like performers, cyberpunk stuff on stage and behind Racso a large big screen where images were shown; here in Paris the scene is definitely simplified and starker and it’s up only to the two Mexicans to create the show. The duet doesn’t disappoint us at all. The performance unwinds in the usual Hocico-way with a restless Erk running on the stage end-to-end (he actually gives me a real hard time in trying to take some pictures) arousing the audience and slapping people’s hands, an ever-static Racso expressionless behind his keyboard, the usual violent and rabid sung that we love so much and...exactly the same setlist of E-tropolis starting with "A fatal desire", going on with the new single "Dog eat dog", with the same resting-time near the end, the coming back on stage after a long calling and the identical two more "Forgotten Tears" and "Poltergeist".
Anyway the little theatre is so full you can’t move at all (actually I’m forced to find a place on the first level) and people are literally into frenzy. As for me, it's no secret that I absolutely LOVE Hocico since their first albums, so I’m ravished especially when they play the oldest songs like "Odio bajo en el alma" which makes me almost jump off the high balcony.
In the end, after infinite thanks to the audience (kind as usual) Erk leaves us with Racso who stays some more minutes playing and finally leaves keeping on thanking and greeting.
After all, despite a development identical to the Berlin gig, it’s always Hocico! Thanks to you, guys!

Well, the festival is over. All in all, even though some faults have to be noted down like the far too long waiting between the gigs or the total absence of space in front of the stage for the professionals to take some pictures (so they were forced to move among the audience, annoying one another), this third Dark Castle Festival was cool, with a pretty small but very nice location in the very centre of the city, air conditioning (very important with a heat like this!) and a very operative sound system. My final comment is: thumbs up and looking forward to the next edition!

Now it’s time to rest a little bit before the afterparty with Dulce Liquido starts. On the balconies the whole Straftanz company keeps on partying with fans while Gothika and other guys from the French bands mix up with the audience inside and outside "Le Divan du Monde". Most of the people leave, others get lost in the ‘brasseries’ of the neighbourhood.
As for me, I stay a couple of hours longer, the time to enjoy a damn clever Racso behind the mixer, dance a little along with the brave ones and finally discover that sometimes I happen to feel tired...yes, me too!

Translator: goth4you
Add date: 2010-10-29 / Live reports

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