We dubbed it Industrial Summer Camp, and it was glorious.
Terminus : Velocity was the third incarnation of Calgary’s exclusive dark electronic music festival. With no less than twenty-four amazing acts, it was a superb opportunity to delight in long time favourites and discover new ones.
I use “dark electronic music” as a hypernym for a whole slew of synthesizer accompanied genres: from the retro stylings of synthwave bands, to stomping noise vibes, Terminus encompassed the full gamut of epic.
I don’t use that word thoughtlessly: Terminus was indeed EPIC!
Here’s the lineup for 2015:
This was my first time attending and I had the pleasure to travel with Glass Apple Bonzai. Amongst the dozens of bands, we also met local artists Spawn of the Dead & Twizted Eye Candy. The good folk of Storming the Base were in attendance with enough wicked pressed tunes to bankrupt me into the next year.
Here is the tale of the three days of Terminus that will leave you saying: What the dickens?
What the Dickens?
Dickens Pub in Calgary has been the gracious host of Terminus for three years running. A huge thank you to Chris, Ambor and all the other staff for their tremendous hospitality, from booking hotels and transport to keeping the whole show on point for the weekend.
Dickens Pub is located at 1000 9th Avenue SW. It’s a beautiful venue space with great sound and room for hundreds of stomping freaks, as well as a secluded merch/chill out area.
Within five minutes of arriving in Calgary, Steve exclaimed “WHAT THE DICKENS?” and it became our war cry for the weekend.
Here’s what happens when you corner drunk people and point a camera at them:
An explosive start to the festival, Digital Winter came out as a maelstrom of very appropriately titled industrial punk. The first few strums of electric guitar accompanied by Gregor Winter’s vocals set the edgy mood of the weekend.
After the raw energy of the prior act, Animal Bodies felt slick and minimal like a silver beat bullet. I’d heard of them prior from the witch-house and techno kids around Toronto, and they did not disappoint. My head was trapped in their hypnotic rhythms and bobbing steadily for an hour after their performance.
EVERYTHING GOES COLD
Everything Goes Cold is what happens when you smash together a hot-shot Metropolis record lineup, shoot them full of 8-bit nostalgia mixed with tequila and arm them with chainsaws.
The first of Eric Gottesman’s three appearances on the Terminus stage, everything you need to understand EGC is summarized in this song title: I’ve Sold Your Organs on the Black Market to Finance the Purchase of a Used Minivan.
You're not worth enough to be sacred All you're worth is my transportation You can't stop my master plan to finance my new minivanAfter I've made the downpayment I'll escape before arraignment I'll travel the world, on the run from the law And buy ice on the way to make sure you don't thaw
I was very pleasantly surprised by HFF, an electro-punk band from LA. Solid, pounding beats akin to Fad Gadget, High-Functioning Flesh‘s Greg Vand and Susan Subtract had a mature sound without the saccharine notes that typically mark electro substrata genres.
I fell in love with Iris in the first minute of their performance. After the mean beats of the last couple acts, Reagan Jones’s ethereal voice was like soul balm. Retroactively going through their tracks I realize I’ve heard them dozens of times in club mixes next to Kraftwerk and other alternative electro-pop acts.
I watched Ivardensphere haul half a dozen drums on stage early on Friday and my blood pressure spiked. Of all the bands taking to the Terminus stage they were among the acts I anticipated the most – particularly because I’ve never had a chance to see them on their home turf.
Close to home, Ivardensphere were able to unleash their full tribal noise spectrum with fascinating Taiko drums and ululating vocals. Watching them was like jumping down a magical snake hole in a post-apocalyptic jungle.
VELVET ACID CHRIST
Velvet Acid Christ was instrumental to my youth; it was the Nirvana of my teenage-hood, a perfect proxy to the misanthropy and iconoclastic fear I experienced in some of the loneliest moments of my life.
At first, my head was reeling from the Ivardensphere maelstrom, but within moments I was enraptured. VAC reduced me to a vulnerable and emotionally raw state in those early days when I struggled to understand my own humanity. It’s a deep emotional connection and for that I will always love their music.
By the time Dive took to the stage all the exhaustion of the past couple days caught up with me and I unfortunately missed them. I love Dirk Ivens side project Sonar and I hadn’t even heard Dive before; after downloading a couple of their albums, I’m seriously kicking myself for bailing early.
Like a cool drink of refreshing water after a night (and day) of partying, Hello Moth descended on day two with a glamorous presence and a refined lo-fi sound.
He ran the whole show off a synth the size of a powerbar and executed some really neat live vocal sequencing. Hello Moth is definitely a welcome addition to my future chillout playlists.
GLASS APPLE BONZAI
Oh gawd: The GAB nerds.
How do I begin describing Glass Apple Bonzai? They’re like a slapstick punch in the nose set to the best (read: cheesiest) 80s tunes. Daniel X. Belasco of MDM and Defence Mechanism & Steve better known as Dreamstate Seven, are a bunch of rowdy kids with keys to a stolen DeLorean and they’re driving it over yo’ momma’s daisies.
Also, F**k you Dan’s computer!
I shouldn’t have to further explain why 300 people were chanting that in unison. In spite of technical difficulties, the showmanship and skill of these two artists immediately won over the crowd.
Then the sax came out. Oh baby.
Statiqbloom was a lean-mean-beat machine, like somebody hit the l33t k0r3 panic button and the industrial/noise feel I wanted from Terminus came rushing back in the room with a pneumatic hiss. Brooklyn’s Fade Kainer delivered a stomping-good-time.
After SB took the crowd back to the dark industrial side of music, The Body snatched them away – sack over the head – to a wild experimental and chaotic place. Unapologetic distortion and strange sampling lent to their powerful presence.
I stepped on three people and elbowed a fourth on my frenzied way to the merch table after Perturbator got off stage: just in time to snag his last disk. We played it half a dozen times in the hotel room throughout the rest of the weekend. Then we watched Mad Max: Fury Road with Perturbator as the soundtrack.
Go ahead, try it, it’s freakin’ brilliant.
I was introduced to James just prior to his show and with a self-termed “retrofuturistic” style, I didn’t know what to expect; it was hands down my favourite new find of the weekend. His music kicks ass!
Ayria has always been bubblegum-badass, and I have mad respect for one of the few female headliners of the festival. This girl knows how to work the crowd!
It was by far the most flawlessly executed performance of the whole night, a testament to Jen being a veteran of the futurepop scene and Toronto’s cyber sweetheart .
RevCo. are legend, and I expected no less of Chris Connelly and Jason Novak in the new Cocksure package. These guys make Rod Stewart’s whole generation look like pussies. They unleashed upon the crowd like a gun loaded full of lead and spunk.
THIS MORN OMINA
My most anticipated act of the whole festival!
This Morn Omina are the pagan bastards of the noise scene; their music has a ritualistic, surreal feeling unmatched by anything I’ve heard.
Like VAC they were one of my early discoveries, a powerful force that shaped my appreciation for power electronics and noise. I found One-Eyed Man on an unlabeled mix CD behind a toilet in Toronto’s Savage Garden, the very night I saw Converter, Manufactura and Displacer live for the first time. How’s that for setting the tone?
My first impression was that of a sonic cataclysm. It still is. Mika is a f*cking weirdo and I will forever worship him for it; not to mention the rest of the live crew were among my favourite recurrent performers of the weekend.
Intermission – #SHHPARTY
Ba-ha-ha-haa, who are y’all kidding?
Charged from the day’s festivities, we plowed back to the Sandman Hotel for the Room 715 after-party, aptly dubbed the Shhparty.
I’ll let the pictures do the talking on what ensued.
Suffice to say it lasted about 20 mins before we got shut down and the party moved into a parking garage for its subsequent chain-smoking-belligerent-yelling chapter.
Another pleasant surprise, Apollyon’s Visage had a unique occult ambient/witch house vibe that I totally dug. A perfect start to the final day of festivities, particularly since most of us were nursing the mother-father-and-holy-ghost of a hangover.
Another legend of industrial/glitch/electro-retro, I could nail twenty more epithets to Volt9000‘s performance and still not come near doing them justice. Toronto natives Cory and Andrew are an 8-bit trip to a unique experimental universe. Kudos for the most eclectic selection of performance gadgets!
Yet another new sound for me, Seeming had a very interesting allure, a strange permutation of gothic and industrial, the poetic and the morbid. By far the most melodically eloquent act of the week, I followed through to read some of their lyrics after the show which gave me far better insight into their delicate sensitivities and the passion behind their performance.
Take equal parts Lydia Lunch and Siouxsie Sioux, stir in some Bjork and a touch of Grimes and you’ve got the incredible experience that is Azar Swan. I love seeing passionate performances and Zohra delivered a sublime show. Azar Swan’s act was characterized by very technical vocals backed by steady beats with an exotic, tantalizing streak.
Another Metropolis all-star side project, Decree brought down the hammer on stage with unrivalled fury. I’ll listen to just about anything involving FLA/Delerium’s Chris Peterson, and Decree did justice to the legacy of heavy industrial music; Sean’s powerful vocals and stage presence totally sold me on this act.
Although Perturbator totally stole the trophy for the new discoveries category, V>LH>LL was a close second. I noticed people wearing their shirts all evening; they certainly have a large throng of zealous fans in Calgary.
These two Artoffact signed Swedes had me dancing so hard I almost forgot to snap a (blurry) shot for my records. Their sound was multifarious, an aggressive strain of witch house with a solid industrial fuselage and disjointed breakcore-style riffs.
Do these guys even need an introduction? The LA superstars are responsible for some of the longest-standing club anthems of the EBM scene. I’ve heard them so many times, I’ve come to hate them and then love them all over again with every subsequent live show. Aesthetic Perfection were kings of the stage with their spectacular energy and they whipped the crowd into a frenzy.
I’ve dug them for about as long as VAC and This Morn. While the former is aural foie gras and the latter ritualistic black drink, Grendel is like washing down a bloody 12oz steak with a gallon of stout. In the (misappropriated) holy gospel of Rollins, all that’s left to do is “f*ck on the floor and break sh*t”.
Their Terminus performance was right on cue with what I expected from the first time I saw them in Toronto: a freakin’ sonic attack of harsh EBM classics. They ended their set and the crowd’s pleas brought them back on stage in seconds.
Nobody wanted to leave. Nobody wanted this amazing festival to be over. Grendel was a phenomenal closer, capitalizing on the final bursts of energy in the audience.
And that was that. After decompressing around town with some of the wicked peeps we met this weekend, on Monday we packed up and left Calgary in a trance. I will miss that city and vow to return to the already rumoured 2016 Terminus festival.
If you haven’t been able to make it out this year, SHAME ON YOU!
Let this account be your motivation to check out future incarnations of this festival.
I’ve also put together a longer guide to other shenanigans we got up to while in Calgary. If you’ll be attending for the first time next year or are a recurrent out-of-towner, there’s some great info there on visiting Banff and the awesome eats and sights in Calgary.