The Black Queen: Live Music Review
The Black Queen is the new side project for The Dillinger Escape Plan’s Greg Puciato. It’s nothing like Dillinger, but isn’t that the point? The Dillinger Escape Plan is metal. HEAVY, fast metal. (I’ve written about them here.) The Black Queen is 80s inspired synth pop, and it’s done very well (as far as my untrained ears can tell). Puciato has described the music as cathartic; it must be after screaming your head off night after night.
I took advantage of the opportunity to see this new band perform on a special night. It was both their first ever live show, and it was their album release party. (You can download the album by clicking my Amazon link; the physical copies ship later this month.) The venue was a small bar/club in Glendale, California, and the show sold out pretty quickly due to limited space. The idea of attending a more intimate show was very appealing after the larger-scale concerts I’ve attended recently.
My ticket had a time of 9:00, but the doors didn’t even open until 9:30. There were two musical acts before the headliner, so The Black Queen didn’t even take the stage until 12:30 AM. Lucky for me, it wasn’t a school night.
The first act was a solo artist who made beats with a synthesizer. Sometimes he’d scream some unintelligible lyrics, but most of the “songs” were instrumental. I put “songs” in quotes because most of the music was just the same beat on repeat for 3-5 minutes. It was also loud and distorted, in a grating sense. I hated every minute of it. Electro dance music has always been very boring to me. Without changes, beats/rhythm are just that: beats and rhythm. A song has to have structure and variety if it’s going to be interesting. I don’t know the artist’s name and I don’t care to find out.
The second act was another solo act who called himself Drab Majesty. I hated him before he even played a single note. He came out on stage wearing white face paint and black lipstick/eye shadow (like The Crow) and what appeared to be an Andy Warhol wig. Maybe it was his hair, I don’t know. It looked like a wig. His first impression with the audience was to put a plastic bust of Alexander the Great on the speaker, and then kissing it. (Ugh.) When he did come out for the sound check, he held his guitar upside down like Jimi Hendrix, and he had a “666” in children’s magnet letters glued to the guitar’s body. Yes, I totally judged him by appearances. To me, he was trying too hard and putting style over substance.
To add to my frustration with this act, he didn’t start playing right away. He first came out to perform some weird parasol moves to an electronic ambient soundtrack. To me, it added nothing positive to the set. It wasn’t particularly interesting and it seemed like padding. FINALLY, he started playing some music. He was much better than the first act, but I still didn’t like it. His songs had a definite goth flavor to it. Think of a less poppy The Cure, or Bauhaus or a New Order knock off. The music wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t great either. It seemed like he was playing in the wrong key the whole time.
I cannot recommend Drab Majesty, but if you’re into goth, he might be up your alley. I’d be interested to know what you think, so leave a comment.
The Black Queen
At midnight, I was already irritated and unhappy with the opening acts. I’m also getting old, so my legs and back were starting to hurt from standing on the concrete floor for 3 and a half hours straight. I had high hopes for The Black Queen to salvage the night, and they did, more or less. They started late, as there were issues setting up the lights and having to deal with a broken mic.
When the band finally did play, they melted away almost all of my frustration. Puciato’s voice sounded great, the guitar was haunting, and the synthesizer wasn’t overpowering like it was for the previous acts. Going in, I had only heard two songs. I liked them both, so I was excited to see what else was in store for me when I downloaded the record. (I’ve embedded the video for their first single Ice to Never, below. It’s a lot of fun.)
The performance was very good, but fell short of great. One aspect that was great were the visuals. They had a screen in the background showing 80s themed lines and patterns, and there was so much smoke in the air from a fog machine that at times you could only see the band members’ silhouettes contrasted with the cyan and white spotlights. Coupled with the faint light of the video, it was a very surreal and visually pleasing effect. The music, as I mentioned, is a loving tribute to 80s synth pop. It’s not my favorite genre, but it worked for me because I’m such a fan of Puciato’s singing voice. That’s not to say the other band members weren’t good, they were. Let’s face it, the draw was Puciato and he delivered, more or less.
There were a couple bugs to work out, but for a band’s first live performance, it was pretty solid. It’s just too bad the openers didn’t do their job.
UPDATE: This is the second time the band liked my review. Pretty cool.
Setlist: Strange Quark (with extended intro) | Distanced | Ice to Never | The End Where We Start | Secret Scream | Maybe We Should/Non-Consent | Taman Shud | Now, When I’m This | Apocalypse Morning
Visuals/Atmosphere: ★ out of 5
Sound: ½ out of 5
Live Performance: ★ out of 5
Overall: ★ out of 5 (Hated both!)
The Black Queen
Visuals/Atmosphere: ★★★½ out of 5
Sound: ★★★★ out of 5
Live Performance: ★★★½ out of 5
Overall: ★★★½ out of 5
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