By: Terrance Pryor
"Those punk rock kids", muttered an elderly woman as she passed by a group of showgoers huddled outside of QXTs on a picture perfect Friday evening. Those in the flock weren't the punk rock type at all; these were the goths, the steampunks and the simple folks that are fans of some great industrial music. On that evening's menu? Germany's Project Pitchfork and Canada's Ayria. The show was originally held at NYC's Club Rebel, but was sent to the Newark establishment instead. This is obviously not the first time that a sudden venue change to QXTs has happened; Covenant once jammed at QXTs after a venue switch back in 2010. Opening back in 1990, the club has become the premier goth and industrial club in New Jersey. Newark has never shied away the industrial music culture; The Pipeline once featured many acts including My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult, Sister Machine Gun and some act called Nine Inch Nails.
Canadian synthpop act Ayria is the brainchild of Jennifer Parkin who previously played with Epsilon Minus. The ecstatic frontwoman dealt with technical issues throughout the set but managed to go with the flow. The crowd was somewhat quiescent until "The Gun Show", when a few fans decided to sing along, which brought a huge smile to Jennifer's face. The frontwoman's energetic and lively stage presence was very reminiscent of Gwen Stefani and Helen Marnie, vocalist for English electronica group Ladytron. Jennifer wasn't the only person on stage rocking out; drummer Mike Wimer banged away profusely on a standing drum kit while Eric Gottesman and Sarah Wimer kept things in check with the keyboards.
The packed crowd suddenly got moving during cuts "It's Been Fun" and "Analog Trash" while Jennifer used the stage rails to her advantage with some twirls and spins. Ayria have a brand new album out, entitled Practice Makes Perfect, (released nearly 10 years after their debut album Debris) and decided to hit the audience up with the title-track and "Missed The Mark". Jennifer dedicated "Bad List" to those ladies in the crowd who secretly have bad lists. For their final track "My Revenge on the World", the high voltage vocalist had the entire crowd punching the air and chanting "Strike".
Project Pitchfork arrived on stage around 12:30am and kicked things off with "IO". Those that have never witnessed PP live would have imagined vocalist Peter Spilles commanding things with a dark stage presence to compliment his murky growls. That wasn't the case as Peter possessed a cheerful aura mixed with those gruff vocals. Live drummer Achim Färber brought an organic feel to the band's set that night.
Peter took a page from Jennifer Parkin's book during "Lament" and started shaking what his mama gave him. Things drastically changed halfway through the song when the stage lights suddenly went out. Possibly confused by what happened, Peter just kept on dancing and smiling. During the next track "Conjure", some mini flashlights were placed on stage to aid the situation. Peter seemed pretty attached to these mini lights throughout the rest of their set by using them as wands and makeshift disco balls. The stage lights magically came back on during "Timekiller", arguably the band's biggest club hit and a tune that QXTs patrons know like the back of their hand.
The main rule about playing North Jersey (mainly Essex and Bergen County) is to not refer to it as New York no matter how close it is to the Big Apple. Peter made that mistake by proclaiming, "It's nice to be back here in New York". That obviously got some jeers from the crowd, which lead to the vocalist to fix his error. The band went through cuts "Pitch-Black" and "Rain" from the new album Black. Using the mic as a flute, Peter got the crowd pumping their fist for "Requiem". There were plenty of fan requests being yelled throughout the night (including cries for "Alpha Omega"), but with the band playing cuts like "Endless Infinity", "An End", "Carnival", "Steelrose" and "Existence", the crowd was pretty much deemed satisfied.
Usually at concerts, the audience chants "One more song" to cue the outfit's inevitable return to the stage. For this crowd, a simple handclap did the trick. The band went into "Fire & Ice", which was the heaviest track of the evening due to Färber raw pounding at the drums and the crowd's obvious headbanging/metal horn combination. Ending things with "Enchanted Dots of Light", Project Pitchfork left QXTs with new memories, new friends and, in Peter's case, a newfound love for mini flashlights.