Darkness. The walls of Schinmanski, Brooklyn are all expectant, together with the audience, for the French phenom called Carpenter Brut to take the stage, incarnated into the form of drummer, guitarist and keyboards. For all those familiar with the act’s predilections what comes next should have probably been obvious; for those uninitiated, Brut’s early moments of the show might have come as a surprise. None other than Laura Branigan appeared on those walls, a name lot the annals of the 80’s. Her “Hot Night” was one of the key pieces of Ghostbusters, a cult film if there ever was one.
As the cheesy, yet undeniably catchy, track blared out, replete with its video accompanied by Spanish subtitles, something came over the audience, a tense feeling of future action that replaced the expectation which preceded it. The stage had already been well set by the two opening acts, by Antoni Maiovvi and Le Matos. The latter played a long set, drawing on their soundtrack to the excellent BMX/sci-fi/80’s cult film/love story Turbo Kid (seriously, if you haven’t seen this movie, do so immediately). Dark synths from the former and hopeful, energetic beats from the latter had already lathered the audience, immersing them in the synths which gave the music’s genre its name.
Le Matos. “This is the future…this is the year, 1997”
But we were there for Brut and its Brut that we ultimately got. The trio completely stole the show with every aspect of it designed to influence, control and agitate the crowd. The screen which had shown Ghostbusters quickly turned to the band’s own material, short films in blistering succession, each one keyed to one of the tracks: “Escape From Midwich Valley” was accompanied by occult horror, smocks drenched in blood and offal. “Looking For Tracy Tzu” was all trashy kung-fu, its comical villain menacing in the flashy casino. “Division Ruine” oppressed with its post-apocalyptic hit squad, splattering the air with darkness and blood-red.
The oppressive and continuous barrage of imagery from the walls was all a backdrop for the music however which, in likewise fashion, simply kept battering the audience. Carpenter Brut took very few breaks and arranged their tracks to make sure there was never too much of a respite for the audience. Thick, dirty synth line after thick, dirty synth line crashed into the audience, accompanied by massive drops and an impressive light show. The result was as expected: mosh pits erupted numerous times, aggression, nostalgia and dance mingling into one intoxicated, sweaty crowd.
The degree with which Carpenter Brut sculpted this fervor was downright impressive. Retro/synthwave can often get repetitive and redundant. However, by merit of the material (seeing as Carpenter Brut are a cut above the rest, both in execution and composition) and by merit of the gargantuan yet accurate sound, the band were able to keep the crowd’s energies high throughout the set. Add to this little touches, like stick lights for drum sticks and the encore track, none other than Flashdance‘s “She’s a Maniac”, and you can understand the charm.
The final cherry on top of the groove-y cake was how well curated the setlist was. Sampling from the best tracks of Trilogy, it allowed Brut to cover the gamut of their style without being too scattered. The band were not afraid to finish tracks early in order to allow for smoother transitions; this enabled them to cover most of the best tracks from the album, including but not limited to “Le Perv”, “Meet Matt Stryker”, “Sexkiller On the Loose” (HELL YEAH) and many more.
Overall, combining the charm of their performance, the strength of the material and the expertise of their execution, Carpenter Brut rocked Schimanski to its core, transporting its audience into a hyper-violent and tacky version of the 80’s. Or, perhaps, of their own timeline, as the downright radical video to “Wake Up the President” attacked the American government/culture almost directly. Whichever one it was, the crowd were fully entranced, catharsis written clearly upon their faces. And is that not all that can be asked of a live show?