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20170513 Oberhausen New Waves Day The Mission 0251Turbinenhalle, Oberhausen, Germany
13th May 2017
New Waves Day with The Mission, Chameleons Vox, Cassandra Complex, Bollock Brothers, Boytronic, Fliehende Stürme & Frank the Baptist

The Turbinenhalle has been proud host of the E-Tropolis for a couple of years now, and this festival for all things EBM, Industrial and Synth-Pop is arguably one of the biggest indoor events for the electronic side of the international Goth scene. So why not trying something similar for the more guitar-driven, Rock-oriented side of the dark scene? This May saw the first edition of the New Waves Day at the Turbinenhalle, including big names like CASSANDRA COMPLEX, THE CHAMELEONS VOX and headliners THE MISSION.

Frank the Baptist

The first act to enter the stage of the Turbinenhalle was FRANK THE BAPTIST but for personal reasons I missed the gig of the German-American Death Rock group. Accounts from friends were a bit mixed, the venue was reportedly still rather empty and the sound had room for improvement - a problem that would continue throughout most of the festival, unfortunately! // /

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Fliehende Stürme

FLIEHENDE STÜRME from Stuttgart is an institution in the German Punk and Wave scene, although they've always remained an underground act unnoticed by the mainstream. Emerging from the Punk band CHAOS Z in the mid-80s, FLIEHENDE STÜRME mix their Punk roots with a much darker sound and attitude influenced by bands like JOY DIVISION, DISCHARGE or early SISTERS OF MERCY. Hence they call their style "Depressive Punk" and indeed a FLIEHENDE STÜRME performance is no whoopee celebration, although the energy and aggression of Punk is clearly still there. The Turbinenhalle was still to fill up with people arriving constantly, so it was rather easy to get to the front even if you were a little late. After all it was still afternoon and while an ageing Punk were looking for someone for a nice round of pogo dancing I decided to head for the bar in the back to quench my thirst. // /

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BOYTRONIC were the next to enter the stage of the Turbinenhalle and the German Synth-Pop act was pretty much the odd one out in this line-up of mainly guitar bands. BOYTRONIC are best known for their classic single 'You' from 1983, which is today still a popular track and which has been featured on many 80s compilations throughout the years. This key song is featured on the album 'The Working Model', which is still regarded as one of the masterpieces of early Synth Pop and which was a pretty successful album back in its day. The following releases were not quite on par with this early success and after singer Holger Wobker left BOYTRONIC the complete band broke up. Bizarrely, the record label decided to exploit the still popular name BOYTRONIC and released some records in the late 1980s under this name with a number of musicians who had nothing to do with the original line-up. One of these musicians, Hayo Lewerentz, teamed up with Wobker in the early 2000s to revive the BOYTRONIC project. The result was the album 'Autotunes', followed by a re-release of 'The Working Model' and a couple of further releases.

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BOYTRONIC as a live act is a rather rare thing, so it was no surprise that many people at the New Waves Day were particularly looking forward to this gig. To be honest, I'm not quite sure if BOYTRONIC could live up to such high expectations! Maybe the lack of sustained experience as live performers showed a little, maybe watching the classic setup of two keyboard players and a singer is a sight seen too often. But definitely the sound at the Turbinenhalle was still a little problematic, to say the least. However, Holger Wobker's voice was in fine form and he did his best to animate the audience. The songs from 'The Working Model' got the best crowd feedback, with 'You' as the highlight. Of course! At the end of the day it was an enjoyable gig and BOYTRONIC stood out at the New Waves Day as purely electronic act among all the guitar heroes of the night.//

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The Bollock Brothers

Next were THE BOLLOCK BROTHERS, true legends from the British Punk explosion in the 1970s and as a live act still very active. Formed in 1979 in London, the band is best known for their cover of the Alex Harvey classic 'Faith Healer' and, if you're old enough to remember, for band leader Jock McDonald's publicity stunts in the early eighties and as "rivals" of the SEX PISTOLS. For example, in 1983 THE BOLLOCK BROTHERS re-recorded the SEX PISTOL's entire album 'Never Mind the Bollocks' as some sort of middle finger ton the band around Johnny Rotten. In the last few years THE BOLLOCK BROTHERS have seem to be more popular in  countries like Belgium or Germany than in their home country, the United Kingdom. So no surprise that they tour central Europa rather often, and they got a quite good crowd at the New Waves Day. Jock McDonald entered the stage to the first bars of 'Reincarnation Off' and immediately filled the stage with his somehow awkward, or rather impish and wicked presence. McDonald is well into his 60s now, he`s surely no athlete who would run around on stage nonstop as some other singers, but he´s surely still a good entertainer and frontman.

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His nasal chanting is a trademark of THE BOLLOCK BROTHERS, whose music sounds a little bit punky but with big dose of New Wave and even Pub Rock. They were called the Monty Python of Alternative Rock but their inane wit doesn't exactly have the same cleverness as the British comedy institution - not that the band would have ever tried to achieve that! Besides McDonald, the line-up of THE BOLLOCK BROTHERS is completed by Chris McKelvey (guitar), Richard Collins (bass), Patrick Pattyn (drums) and Morgan Michaux (keyboard). The quintet works its way through a couple of songs about Dracula or Frankenstein but the most anticipated songs were of course 'Faith Healer' and 'Harly David Son Of A Bitch', their mocking version of a Serge Gainsbourg evergreen. THE BOLLOCK BROTHERS may have aged quite a bit but at least they have aged well and still are entertaining performers. // /

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The Cassandra Complex

THE CASSANDRA COMPLEX were the only band of the New Waves Day line-up which also played the E-Tropolis before, so there was a nice chance for a comparison. The E-Tropolis has been a well-established festival for a couple of years, already, and it uses the full capacity of the Turbinenhalle in Oberhausen. While the New Waves Day at the same venue looked well attended it attracted about half of what E-Tropolis is able to draw, and hence used only one of the halls. THE CASSANDRA COMPLEX are also musically a link between the two festivals, as they combine dark synth sounds and electronic beats with guitar-driven Post-Punk. Unfortunately the guitars were not audible during the first couple of songs of their set at the New Waves Day due to technical problems. In fact the technical problems must have been huge and singer Rodney Orpheus furiously turned to the sound techs on the right hand of the stage a few times.

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However, as soon as he turned towards the audience he was all the smiling British gentleman again and didn't take out his frustration on the fans, at all. I'm not sure what went wrong, perhaps someone at the mixing desk simply had difficulties to figure out which channels should be up. Really a pity but at the same time somewhat interesting as THE CASSANDRA COMPLEX sounded very minimal and raw because of that. Halfway through the gig someone finally found the right button and THE CASSANDRA COMPLEX had the full sound, eventually. The storming 'The War Against Sleep' sounded all the more roaring and almost blew my ears off as the volume suddenly doubled, and the following Electro Punk anthem 'Moscow Idaho' nailed it before the band closed their set with 'Gunship', a dark ten-minute track and rarely performed song. I guess THE CASSANDRA COMPLEX had better live gigs thanks to the sound problems but I enjoyed their gig anyway. // /

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The Chameleons Vox

So far the tricky acoustics and technical issues were the downers in an otherwise great festival with a brilliant line-up. THE CHAMELEONS VOX were the lucky fellows of the day as they had the best sound of the entire festival! Or maybe they simply brought a really competent sound engineer? Who knows, in any case finally the sound was like it should be during their performance. THE CHAMELEONS VOX is Mark Burgess' continuation of THE CHAMELEONS, in the early 1980s one of Britain's most important Post-Punk bands which were mentioned in one breath with PSYCHEDELIC FURS, ECHO & THE BUNNYMEN and even U2 but despite the critically acclaimed debut album 'Script Of The Bridge' THE CHAMELEONS never had the same commercial success as the aforementioned bands, most definitely not as U2!

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I already saw THE CHAMELEONS VOX at small clubs in front of less than 150 people but at the New Waves Day they got a huge crowd which was totally up for it and in combination with the really good sound Mark Burgess and his band mates certainly had a field day! They started the show with 'Swamp Thing', probably their most popular track, and for the rest they let their melancholic yet hymn-like songs with echo-y guitars and singalong-friendly lyrics do their job. 'Second Skin' was a particular highlight among many highlights and sent a few shivers down my spine. The faces of Burgess, drummer Yves Altana and guitarists Neil Dwerryhouse and Chris Oliver gave away how much they enjoyed the gig themselves and after the closing song 'Here Today' you could see happy and smiling faces everywhere. Best gig of the festival, best gig of CHAMELEONS VOX I've seen so far! // /

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The Mission

THE MISSION were the last and headlining act and one wondered if they could take on the excellent performance of the previous band. Well, yes and no! The technical issues showed their ugly face again, and while it was not as bad as e.g. during THE CASSANDRA COMPLEX' gig vocalist and mastermind Wayne Hussey complained often enough that his guitars would sound wrong and out of tune since someone stepped over them right before the show started. Now, that's a surprising excuse! Anyway, THE MISSION have loyal fans, and many of them, and some folks travelled long distances just to see THE MISSION at the New Waves Day. The band tours again in support of their return-to-form album 'Another Fall From Grace', which was released in September last year, but at this festival they performed only three songs from it and presented some sort of best-of-set, much to the pleasure of the crowd. Starting with 'Beyond The Pale', Hussey was obviously in a good mood despite the technical glitches and happy to joke around between songs.

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Luckily the sound issues were solved quickly so that there was nothing in the way for a great cheerful party with many singalongs and classic hits as 'Garden of Delight', 'Severina' or 'Wasteland'. Two encores with a total of four songs completed the highly enjoyable gig, including the popular ballad 'Butterfly On A Wheel' and a rare rendition of THE SISTERS OF MERCY's 'Marian', a song which actually Hussey wrote when he was a member of the first incarnation of the said band. // / // Setlist: 01. Beyond the Pale / 02. Met-Amor-Phosis / 03. Serpent's Kiss / 04. Swoon / 05. Garden of Delight / 06. Can’t See the Ocean for the Rain / 07. Naked and Savage / 08. Severina / 09. Tyranny of Secrets / 10. Like a Child Again / 11. Tower of Strength / 12. Wasteland / Encore 1: 13. Butterfly on a Wheel / 14. Marian (The Sisters of Mercy cover) / Encore 2: 15. Swan Song / 16. Deliverance

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For those who still did not have enough there was a little aftershow party with a number of DJs from the Germany's Goth & Dark Wave scene but most people headed home after such a long day. The New Waves Day festival was certainly a success, especially considering it was a premiere at the Turbinenhalle, and while the tricky acoustics of the Turbinenhalle and the recurring technical difficulties throughout the event were a rather big fly in the ointment, it was nevertheless an enjoyable experience! Let's hope that the promoters will organize a second edition of the New Waves Day in 2018!

All Pictures by Markus Felix

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