LIVE REVIEW: A Place to Bury Strangers at the Masquerade

A Place to Bury Strangers
Photo by Brandon Funk

Great goth punk bands are tough to find, so naturally I was ecstatic when I heard A Place to Bury Strangers was rolling through the Masquerade to spook and presumably bury audiences alongside the Joy Formidable and Exitmusic. I was first introduced to the band indirectly through guitarist Oliver Ackermann’s boutique effects pedal company called Death By Audio, and have since become a big fan of APTBS’ brand of chaotic noise-rock. However, I had never seen any of the other acts perform live.

Exitmusic was the first band to take the stage and they had a female singer who reminded me of a slightly less confident version of Alanis Morissette. For some reason she gave me a awkward barista vibe; like if I were to walk into a Starbucks and she was working behind the counter, she would treat me to a caramel latte, hand it to me with a smile, and then croon a tune about how she prepared it. Strange, I know. The gentlemen that backed this fine lady were your standard fare Flock of Seagulls rejects clad in all black.

How would I describe the Exitmusic experience? Atmospheric, droned out, but not addictive. I felt the singer had an amazing voice—she reminded me of PJ Harvey meshed with Björk—and I really enjoyed the heaviness and deep timbre of the drums and electronic beats. Nonetheless, the music lacked catchy hooks, so all the songs meandered together as the audience slowly bobbed their heads into a quiet slumber. Everyone and their grandma are layering tons of reverb on vocals to the point of the vocal melody being indistinguishable, and, overall, I did not feel the tunes were that innovative or creative.

The next band to perform was A Place to Bury Strangers, who seemed eager to pummel the audience with their distortion-ridden blend of psychedelic noise, shoegaze and space rock. Truth be told, what APTBS really does is combine the dark, gothic visuals and spiritual energy of Disintegration-era Cure and mash it up with the blood and cojones of bands like Killing Joke and Joy Division. After that, they throw in a bit more grit and distortion to taste and cue super heavy and intense feedback freakouts similar to early Sonic Youth. In a live setting, this is a cocktail for succulently sweet disaster.

A Place to Bury Strangers
Photo by Brandon Funk

The minute the house engineers dimmed the lights and the washed-out visuals started blaring on the ceiling and side walls, I knew I was in for danger. As a matter of fact, everything about the band screams danger and intensity; from the way bassist Dion Lunadon takes the stage with his slight grimace and low slunk posture to the heavy, perilous sounding drums of drummer Jay Space to Oliver Ackermann’s bombed-out guitar sound. Ackermann would step on a pedal and you would feel the entire PA system shake. I looked up and thought I saw a gigantic zeppelin crash into the side of the Masquerade, mechanical guts and exposed wires cutting like razor sharp, oily teeth into the venue. After APTBS threw down their guitars, the damage had already been done; my mind was completely obliterated. All in all, I hope this band continues to melt minds for the next ten years. We’re going to need groups like this as a living document and testament to what post-punk revival music is capable of.

By the time the Joy Formidable took the stage, the (mis)appropriately named “Heaven” portion of the Masquerade was hotter than Lucifer’s private chambers. I tactfully moved past the exorbitantly priced alcoholic beverages and drank some good old H20 as the band members strapped on their gear. The Joy Formidable are a shoegaze/alternative rock band and they played some entertaining and heavy pop tunes. I only stayed for three songs during their set, but I enjoyed what I heard. They have nice vocal harmonies that set them apart and they had very well controlled dynamics from onstage. Extra points for the lead singer Ritzy Bryan, she uses a sunburst Stratocaster with a black pickguard—very solid color combination.