Text & Photos: Bobby Cochran
Blow-up chickens with Trump hair and x’d out swastikas on their bellies. Giant video screens showing ridiculous political animations and visual narrations of song lyrics. Masked youth waving anarchist flags and marching to and fro across the stage. A six-piece band featuring a giant longhaired guy on turntables, two middle aged metal dude guitarists, a mohawked keyboardist, and only one original member of these revered and maligned Industrial granddaddies – vocalist and mastermind Al Jorgensen. The spectacle was big, which for some bands can be a crutch when the music can’t quite pack the punches. Ministry just barely straddled that line, but ultimately came out on the winning side. The patented guitars-meet-drum machines sound that propelled them to the forefront of Industrial music back in the late 80s and early 90’s has morphed into standard heavy metal territory over time. It was difficult not to pine for the nihilistic determination to overwhelm, confuse and destroy audiences and the no-fucks-given attitude that was their M.O. back in the day. In the end, they did manage to bring the noise satisfactorily.
Al Jorgensen can’t ever be called a fake, showing that despite (or because of) 30-plus years of being a performing and recording musician and bandleader, he’s still giving it all he’s got. With a set that filled the first half with recent and a couple brand new songs (“Punch In the Face”, “Antifa”, “Wargasm”), and the second half of classic Ministry hits (“N.W.O”, “So What”, “Thieves”), Uncle Al and crew did their best to make everyone happy. By the looks of it, they succeeded. The ubiquitous Jello Biafra managed to jump onstage for their encore of Devo’s “Gates Of Steel” to top it all off.
Show openers Death Grips were definitely the flipside to Ministry’s stage theatrics and multitudinous squad of musicians. The Sacramento CA three-piece performed their first 5 songs in complete darkness, save for the laser pointer gloves all three members wore on their hands. The effect was disorienting, confusing, psychedelic and otherworldly. Opening with “Lock Your Doors” from 2012’s No Love Deep Web, the crowd went completely apeshit, though in near darkness it was hard to even know what was going on unless you got a bird’s-eye view from the balcony. With zero breaks between songs during the entire hour-long set, Death Grips performance was a non-stop auditory assault, a sonic revelation, and a low-fi, high-volume baptismal. When the stage lights finally came up halfway through their set, the veil of darkness lifted and a thunderous roar rose up from the thrashing, bouncing masses as they threw themselves at each other even more violently than before. Twenty-two songs and not a second wasted. It’s impossible to know if Death Grips felt like they had something to prove as an opening act on this tour, but watching the flood of audience members file out of the venue after the end of their set made it clear they’ve proven themselves to many already.