Words: Callum Doig
Photos: Nicole Smith-Walker
2019 is still so young, yet we’ve already been blessed with some amazing shows down under. With the permanent hiatus of The Dillinger Escape Plan at the end of 2017, tue synth-driven trio known as The Black Queen, which consists of Greg Puciato, Steven Alexander and Josh Eustis, have been embarking on their first ever visit together as a group. With all four shows selling out quickly, it became quite transparent how much of a big deal this would be for not just the band’s debut in Australia, but eagerness of fans that had been waiting since 2015 for a tour to go down. So, with that being said, I made my over to the Northcote Social Club to see what the group had to offer onstage, along with the support of Los Angeles natives Drab Majesty, and local producer Elisabeth Dixon who had been joining them throughout the Australian leg of the tour.
Proceedings were underway with Elisabeth Dixon, who provided the patrons of the Northcote Social Club with an approach of ambient techno music, similar to that of something from the likes of Aphex Twin, Orbital and Bonobo. Numbers drew in slowly as she stormed the stage, and Dixon already had a handful of people swaying as she tapped her MIDI controller for the next half hour. Even with a small crowd, Dixon’s stage production had an arguably contagious effect to the audience, slowly moving themselves to the electronic arpeggios and chord structures guided by some very bass-focused beats.
Soon after, Los Angeles based duo Drab Majesty — the two-piece lovechild of The Sisters of Mercy and A Flock Of Seagulls, who were known for their physically albino presence. They began with an amalgamation of gothic rock and synthpop with mellow, yet uplifting spirits. The primary focus of the setlist was derived of a number of tracks from their latest full-length “The Demonstration” including Dot in the Sky, 39 By Design, Cold Souls and Too Soon to Tell. Within their half hour slot, Drab Majesty’s nostalgic reprisal of eighties new wave music started to connect a lot more with the crowd song after song. This being their debut in the country alongside the headliner, Drab Majesty sure as hell solidified their chances of a return to Australia after delivering such innovation to the stage.
As the stage’s screen projected the band’s symbol, The Black Queen began the mesmerisation of dark ambient synthpop with Thrown Into The Dark, leading into a gargantuas singalong between frontman Greg Puciato and the punters. For the next hour, Puciato and co. lost themselves in the trance of their own music, which later inoculated the crowd into a captivating state of hypnotic bliss. Despite being a much calmer entity for Puciato to take part in as opposed to his work with Dillinger, it didn’t stop him or Alexander from jerking their bodies around to the likes of Ice to Never, No Accusations and Secret Scream. However, one attendee passed out during Maybe We Should, which had the band immediately feeling concerned. Keyboardist and producer Josh Eustis called out after the song to make sure everything was going alright, before plunging into a darker, and more mystifying aura of the band with Distanced and Your Move.
The thing with The Black Queen that makes them so ethereal as a band is this potency to make such an atmospherically and emotionally driven approach to the spectrum of electronic music. Sure, you’ll find lots of bands that are able to do the same, but how many of them can really make you feel something special mentally and physically? From what I saw in the crowd, there such a strong connection between everyone in the crowd, with people group hugging each other, and some with tears in their eyes over the relationship each patron had with The Black Queen’s music. I feel as though this intimate congregation held much more power as far as emotions go, as opposed to your usual 50,000 capacity stadium show. With all of that being said, and for lack of a better way to close this statement — the true way to really grasp the extent of The Black Queen’s virtuosity is to really go and witness it for yourself. No matter, they will return, and to thoseare reading this, you’re in for something beyond special. That’s guaranteed.