If anyone other than Throbbing Gristle had been playing the Brooklyn Masonic Temple on Tuesday night, the fact that the crowd was older and stranger and on more drugs than the average New York City crowd might have been off-putting. And if anyone other than Throbbing Gristle had been on stage, the fact that they more or less just stood there while they played might also have been off-putting. But as it was, it was Throbbing Gristle who delivered a memorable performance in a characteristically unusual setting.
The group’s history alone was worth the price of admission. They formed in the UK in 1976 and began Industrial Records, which bred the term “Industrial” as a music genre. They only stayed together until 1981, after which the members embarked on different projects. During that time, they released four albums, became known for their outrageous and confrontational performances, and rarely played in the United States. The group re-formed in 2004 and recorded TG Now and Part Two, their first studio albums in 25 years. When the band came to New York City (twice in the past two weeks), it was the first time they’d ever played here. And as if that wasn’t convincing or fascinating enough, frontman Genesis P-Orridge doesn’t look so much like a frontman anymore as a frontwoman, having undergone massive surgeries as part of a “pandrogynous” project with his second wife, Lady Jaye, driven by a desire to look alike.
Throbbing Gristle couldn’t be a more apt name, because the band’s music is just that – throbbing and aggressive. But as far as performance, the performing aspect was rather low. Most of the musical components have translated to computers, run by Peter Christopherson, Chris Carter and occasionally Cosey Fanni Tutti, who otherwise plays guitar with a slide, while P-Orridge sings and occasionally plays violin. The pulsating qualities make the music inherently engaging, though, almost hypnotic, especially when coupled with P-Orridge, who sassily flirted with the audience. P-Orridge quipped, “You must all be really sick to enjoy a song like that,” after “Very Friendly,” about a serial killer, and at another point, sniffed the boxers an audience member threw on stage and declared them “acrid.”
The atmosphere was rather odd – when Throbbing Gristle took the stage, all of the house lights were turned on (perhaps a reference to the days when they would aim lights at the audience?). Some of the audience members danced, but most nodded rhythmically and applauded rapturously at each song, though a bearded gentleman towards the front was having some sort of freak-out, and got in several fights before being dragged out by security during “Hamburger Lady.”
Towards the end of the evening, the band debuted the newly rebuilt “Gristle-izer” in a song of the same name, during which it became obvious that, for once, the Brooklyn Masonic Temple had finally gotten the sound right. As P-Orridge asked, “Can we survive?” during “Endless Not,” from the 2007 album Part Two, one had to respect Throbbing Gristle for doing just that, for finding an embrace in a fickle, snobby music scene very different from the one they left.
For more pictures, see here.