The loss of confrontational front man and artist Alan Vega in July 2016 could’ve spelled the end of all performances related to transgressive duo Suicide, but Martin Rev, the remaining half of the synth-punk pioneers, has seemingly been on a musical pilgrimage, playing solo shows and making festival appearances across the U.S. and Europe. I was lucky enough to open for him at the Owl in Logan Square in September 2015. That night, Rev and I talked a lot about Chicago free-jazzers like Roscoe Mitchell—and as I witnessed him attack his keyboard with a feral rush of fist pounds and full-arm leans, it all made perfect sense (on this tour he also plays with Mitchell’s Art Ensemble of Chicago in Detroit). Over his synths and plodding preprogrammed backing tracks, he barked out vocals and occasionally crooned, creating a huge, joyous cacophony that drove the audience into a frenzy. Despite that unconventional approach, Rev was always considered the “musician” of Suicide; in the early 70s he fed his Farfisa organ through a battery of effects while his cheap drum machines ticked out a metronomic pulse. Inspired music-wise by the groundbreaking, proto-electronic 60s duo Silver Apples and performance-wise by the anarchic Stooges, Suicide upped the catharsis level of both while reflecting the crumbling NY dystopian vibes of that time, often adding traces of 50s doo-wop and nods to satanic comic books. When supposedly open-minded punk audiences would not accept a band without guitar and drums, leather-clad Alan Vega literally pummeled them with a bike chain while Rev maintained their grinding machines through spiteful storms of spit and taunts (and once an ax, which was thrown at them while they opened for the Clash in the UK). Little did their naysayers know the much-maligned band would become hugely influential and lay down multiple original templates for minimalist electronica, industrial music, noise rock, postpunk, and beyond.
Wolf Eyes, who open the Empty Bottle show on Friday (Rev also plays at Do-Division on Sunday), are heavily indebted to Suicide’s approach, and will be experimenting live with directional, ultrasonic parametric speakers here. Wolf Eyes member Nate Young explains, “it should be extremely unsettling having sounds beamed directly to your head, [but] don’t worry, they are harmless if exposure is not direct and consistent for over 15 minutes—they use them in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and everyone seems ok.” Rev will be joined by video artist Divine Enfant for what is sure to be an intense set. I’d say bring earplugs if I believed in them. v