This is the new synth party in town — and it’s as aggressive as it is danceable
An intriguing new in heavy electronic music is a genre known as “dark synthwave”, and numerous artists that fall under its umbrella have been snarling their way into existence. It brings along the sounds of retro analog synths, thundering snares, and wildly vibrant guitars, possessed of a vibe reminiscent of action movies and old-school video games; a colleague of mine referred to it as “French musicians playing the best music for driving 100MPH in 80s cars”, and it’s a rather apt description. Players like Perturbator and Gost have made their way into the Bay Area in recent months, and closing out the month of March was Carpenter Brut, the one-man-masterpiece of one Franck Hueso (or “Frank B. Carpenter” as his live moniker) that mashes up the ideas of John Carpenter’s action/horror films with a blast of furious guitars and drums to drive the music at a fevered pace.
While the appearances of French dark-synthwave acts are relatively infrequent, the genre has picked up steadily around San Francisco, and local duo Vector Hold was present to kick things off. While limited to the confines of the already-packed stage, the pair put on an exciting set of infectious tunes, including their own interpretation of the theme from Top Gun. There aren’t a lot of times where the opening act is excellently paired with the headliner — insomuch as they rarely fit within the same genre — but Vector Hold was an excellent addition here, and kept the excitement and energy rising steadily as the night continued on.
Carpenter Brut themselves, however, kicked everything into a ridiculously high level of energy, and the contrast in mood could not have been sharper. Gone were the soft, pale lights and shifting rainbow hues; the band was lost deep in shadow amongst a haze of red, with piercing strobes sometimes the only illumination onstage. Rather than a running background track, percussion was provided by touring drummer Florent Marcadet (of Hacride/Klone), who attacked his kit with dizzying ferocity, matching the antics of guitarist Adrien Grousset (also of Hacride) who shredded with all the manic energy of the most wild of soloists. The crowd picked up easily on the crazed vibe, exploding to life and turning the dance party into a mosh pit within moments, and band and audience played off each other magnificently.
The Carpenter Brut performance was everything that works well in a set: it was fast, it was continuous, and it ended with a great finality — no encores, no conversations, no extra filler to save for the end. Hueso and his compatriots tore through their set like it was their last night to perform; their animations and films projected above them paired excellently with the wild-thrill vibe of their tunes, and they gave a healthy nod back to their origins with a cover of Michael Sembello’s “Maniac” to finish the evening. The audience was in a state of constant movement and raucous celebration for the entirety of the set, barely separating from each other as song after song pulsed through them, and only finally untangled when the trio had finally left the stage.
If you’re looking for the dance-and-stomp party of the future, look no further than a Carpenter Brut concert — and do not miss them the next time they’re in town.
- Escape from Midwich Valley
- Division Ruine
- Roller Mobster
- Meet Matt Stryker
- Wake Up the President
- Chew BubbleGum And Kick Ass
- Turbo Killer
- Paradise Warfare
- Run, Sally, Run!
- Looking for Tracy Tzu
- Anarchy Road
- The Good Old Call
- Disco Zombi Italia
- SexKiller on the Loose
- Maniac (Michael Sembello cover)
Additional photos from the show below. All photos © 2017 Jonathan Pirro.