Los Angeles may be known for its sunshine and colorfully clad Kardashians, but the city has always harbored a dark side — from the SoCal Gen Xers raised on KROQ’s high rotation of Gothic/postpunk icons like Depeche Mode, the Cure, New Order, and Siouxsie, to a new wave of local darkwavers like She Wants Revenge, Cold Cave, Health, Drab Majesty, and Tropic of Cancer. During the past two years, black-clad aficionados of such music of the night have found kindred spirits at Cloak & Dagger, a secret, members-only lair founded by DJ/She Wants Revenge musician/club promoter Adam 12 and record producer Michael Patterson (She Wants Revenge, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, Mindless Self Indulgence, Puscifer). And this past weekend, the club took over Downtown L.A.’s adjacent Globe and Tower Theatres for a pre-Halloween, two-night black celebration: the first annual Cloak & Dagger festival.
Friday was headlined by scowling Scottish fuzz-rock legends the Jesus and Mary Chain, who returned this year after a nearly two-decade recording hiatus with the moody psychedelic jangle of Damage and Joy. Amid glowing blood-red lights and swirls of dry-ice fog, the Reid brothers opened with “Rock ‘n’ Roll Amputation,” a surly new statement song about how J&MC have been all but written out of the new wave history books — but they easily reclaimed their legacy with a set full of bluster and bite that included such 120 Minutes classics as “Head On,” “Just Like Honey,” “Some Candy Talking,” and “I Hate Rock ‘n’ Roll.”
Friday’s other two highlights were New Jersey industrial/hip-hop terrormongers Ho99o9 (pronounced “Horror”) and drony dreamrockers Drab Majesty, both of whom flouted the festival’s strongly suggested “all black everything” dress code — the former in blood-smeared white denim and a Miss Havisham-worthy wedding gown, the latter in butched-off Iggy-blond bowl cuts and gauzy shrouds that resembled children’s crude bedsheet-ghost Halloween costumes.
Ho99o9, one of the fiercest new bands of the Trump era, were a heart-quickening, headbanging revelation; rappers the OGM and Eaddy were absolutely relentless and unstoppable in their noise-punk attack, inspiring frenetic, limbs-flying moshing to “Moneymachine,” “War Is Hell,” and other pummeling tracks from their brutal, Dave Sitek-produced debut album, United States of Horror. Next door, Drab Majesty provided a more calming experience, their Clan of Xymox-channeling, sonically layered neo-Goth transforming the Tower Theatre into an echo chamber of pleasingly hypnotic underwater vocals and synthpop sound effects.
Among Saturday’s elder attractions were electrorock Teutonic titans KMFDM, who provided a satisfyingly angry soundtrack for angry times with “Total State Machine” — a thrashing and confrontational track from their just-released 12th album, Hell Yeah, featuring the unsubtle chorus “Your government hates you! Hate your government!”
Further holding down the old guard were Poptone, a reflective project of Bauhaus/Love & Rockets/Tones of Tail legends Daniel Ash and Kevin Haskins (along with Haskins’s bassist daughter, Diva Dompe). Also dressed in white (Ash in a particularly stylish Sue Catwoman tee), the trio pleased the KROQ crowd with fan favorites like L&R’s “No Big Deal” and “Mirror People” and Tones’ “Go!,” as well as back-catalog obscurities and a surprising, sexy cover of Adam & the Ants’ “Physical.”
Recently reunited Saturday headliners and festival organizers She Wants Revenge, still enjoying a career resurgence after their signature song “Tear You Apart” was prominently featured in a memorably bloody threesome scene in American Horror Story: Hotel, also paid homage to the dark music of the ’80s, debuting a note-perfect cover of the Church’s hazy alt-rock classic “Under the Milky Way.”
But Saturday’s standout set, and perhaps the best set of the weekend, came from L.A./NYC/Philly shoegazing synthrockers Cold Cave, whose wintry soundscapes and booming, doomy vocals epically evoked the music of Halloween Past (think Sisters of Mercy, Spacemen 3, Joy Division) while sounding thrillingly fresh and attracting a noticeably youthful crowd of enthusiastic club kids. Cold Cave and their peers, along with the veteran C&D acts of the weekend, proved that this sort of nocturnal music is still very much undead, undead, undead.