Be me at 15. No, this wasn’t at the show, this was twenty years ago, I’m giving you a basis. Watching MTV and hearing Nine Inch Nails and Ministry. Yes, that MTV, they used to play music. And it wasn’t even all pop or rap, there was a veritable smorgasbord of music styles on there. Videos, one right after another. The days before Youtube. But I do digress. I had found industrial music, but it didn’t stop there. I wanted more. This was also the days before the internet, there was no convenient search engine to find similar bands and it all depended on word of mouth. Fortunately the 90s were the high point in popularity for industrial, thanks mainly to Nine Inch Nails and then Marilyn Manson. And that’s when I heard a person said two little magical words: “Skinny Puppy”.
I head down to the record store, it was a thing, try to follow along. There I found a new release from this band entitled “The Process”. And it was all downhill from there. Fast forward those twenty years and I had never seen this legendary band live, but on 10/31/15 at The Rialto Theatre in Tucson, Arizona, that was all about to change. You bet your sweet ass I bought my ticket the day they went on sale, right on that newfangled internet. Wasn’t going to miss this. And on Halloween no less.
I arrive early, before doors open even. The streets are swelling with people dressed in all manner of costume, but I didn’t care about them. I make a beeline toward the venue and get right in. Don’t know why I bothered showing up so early, show didn’t even start for another hour. But I do enjoy being around like minded people. See several that I know, but plenty of new faces. There’s about a couple hundred people here early. General conversation ensues. The opening band is Youth Code, not familiar with them, but when they take the stage, I head in to check them out.
Pretty much a perfect opener for Skinny Puppy. Their sound is a very crunchy and aggressive form of old school industrial. Two people. The man handles the instruments while the woman takes on vocal duties. Speaking of her, boundless energy this woman. The whole set she’s bouncing around on stage like a bunny on crack, headbanging and screaming out vocals with surgical precision. All her running around definitely got the crowd pumped for what was about to come after them. I can’t stress the words enough, legends. So Youth Code puts on a seriously solid set and if you get a chance to check them out, I highly recommend that you do.
Now there’s a break and more conversation to pass minute by anxious minute. The set change isn’t long, but it kind of felt that way. But once Skinny Puppy takes the stage, everyone goes rushing inside and wow, there’s probably over a thousand people here now. I take my place in the crowd as they open with a familiar tune: “Jahya”. From “The Process”, it’s like my fandom is coming full circle. And there they are, Ogre up there in his white outfit and cEvin Key in his tower powering the music. Almost a transcendental experience after being a fan for so long.
The concert is going well as they play “Dogshit”, “Fascist Jock Itch”, and “Death”. People are really getting into it, but then they play “Tin Omen” and the crowd practically explodes. This whole time, an individual is on stage wearing a gas mask with glowing red eyes and bull horns, slinking around and attaching syringes full of blood to Ogre. This actually continued on for most of the show and as he would depress them, he proceeded to get bloodier and bloodier. I had always heard their stage show was wonderfully high in theatrics and I wasn’t disappointed.
I addition to the on stage antics, what was projected onto the screen behind them resonated with their many political stances. After all, they were born in an age where industrial was highly political and actually had meaning. Images of wealthy and powerful people melting into one another, political insignias and religious iconography shown as interchangeable, war, police state, animal testing and on and on. The concert continued on with “T.F.W.O.”, “Curcible”, “Hardset Head”, “Village”, and “The Choke”. They sound amazing. These guys I met at the concert had seen them in Vegas the previous night and commented on how they sound even better live than on anything recorded. That is an accurate statement. They’re so tight and Ogre’s voice is still amazing.
But then they played “Worlock” and once again the crowd explodes, but even bigger than before. Sounded so incredible live. How they are going to follow up from that? With “The Killing Game”. Hot damn, that’s what I’m talking about. But then the same question comes about, how do you follow THAT? With none other than “Assimilate”. Wow, just exceptional. And that’s how they ended their set. Of course, the massive crowd didn’t budge an inch and sure as can be, they returned for an encore.
Ogre starts out with an inspiring speech and ends it by saying that all hope is smothered, which of course means it’s time for “Smothered Hope”. Follow that up with “Candle”. Seriously? Unreal to hear that song live, and apparently it’s the first time they’ve every performed it live is on this very tour. And then they depart again, and again, nobody moves. They come back one more time and speak about how they found a small dog and took him to HOPE Animal Shelter, a local no kill shelter. Then they show a picture of the dog with a contact number. Ogre reaffirms their belief that animals should not be tested upon and then they close with “Testure”.
It was an epic concert and everything I hoped it would be. The sound, the visuals, just remarkable. Even the opening band rocked. They have chosen well. Rarely do such things ever live up to expectations and if you have a chance to see Skinny Puppy live, I cannot recommend them highly enough.