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Review: VNV Nation, Whiteqube @ Bowery Ballroom 5.11.14

VNV Nation

"I hope you're looking comfortable up there."

"This is not a coffee demonstration."

Those are a couple of quips that VNV Nation frontman Ronan Harris flung towards folks placed in the balcony section of Bowery Ballroom on Sunday night. While the rest of the crowd were feverishly dancing on the floor, those with balcony access seemed rather uninspired through the vocalist's eyes. Fortunately for Ronan and drummer Mark Jackson, some of them managed to get on their feet.

This was the German alternative electronic act's second night at the NYC venue, or, as Ronan called it, "Round two", and many individuals were still recovering from the insanity that took place the night before. Even though it was Mother's Day, there were a scarce amount of moms seen dancing underneath the pulsating light show.

The group promised separate sets each night, and they delivered with a handful of different tunes, although there were some cases of puzzlement from the crowd. As the intro to "The Great Divide", the lone single from their 2009 album Of Faith, Power and Glory, started up, the dancefloor suddenly came to a screeching halt. "Some people look really confused by us playing this," stated Ronan as he glanced at a plethora of perplexed faces. While they played fan favorites like "Chrome", "Control", and "Primary", their second night in NYC found the band diving into tracks like the fan-requested "If I Was" from their latest album Transnational, "Tomorrow Never Comes", "Electronaut", and "In Defiance", a tune which had the frontman proclaim, "I would love to do this song with an old school punk band." The band managed to touch upon most of their albums, but those in the crowd expecting something from their 1995 debut album Advance & Follow were sadly disappointed; the furthest that the band dove into their discography was "Solitary" from 1998's Praise The Fallen.

Most of Ronan's random conversations with certain members of the crowd, which he would sometimes have mid-song, involved the use of cameras at the show. He wasn't opposed to it all; he was actually giving tips on how to take better video. He was so enamored with giving lessons that he managed to temporarily forgot the words to "Space and Time".

Ronan and Co. wanted the packed house to pretend that it was 1999, for a moment for "Standing (Motion)", a song that the frontman stated was unintentionally inspired by trance music and managed to cause a monstrous reaction when they first played it back in the days. During the track, the frontman met a fan in the front row, whom he nicknamed "Bubbles", that was attending her first ever VNV Nation concert. With his strong stance on taking good video and simply wanting to give the lady a show to remember, Ronan took Bubbles' camera for a minute during "Resolution", a track that he jokingly described as a downer, and filmed the entire crowd moving along to the beat.

While Ronan bounced around on stage and told jokes at every given moment like a seasoned comedian, there were some times of calmness. "Illusion", a track from their 2007 album Judgment, has helped many of their fans cope with the pains of life with lines like "I don’t want you to hate for all the hurt that you feel/ The world is just illusion trying to change you." Many friends and loved ones attending that night wrapped their arms around each other, letting these words sink in.

Before VNV Nation took the stage, California duo Whiteqube, comprised of members Jason Schary and T. Ryan Arnold, took a shot at warming the crowd up. These two have been building up a massive fanbase over in the Golden State and gained press from LA Weekly, but they've never fully made their way across the country until now. The NYC crowd didn't really warm up to these guys too quickly. Parked behind a DJ booth, the two men seemed to have more fun that the somewhat immobile crowd at times. Many of the tracks, which unfortunately featured annoyingly repetitive lines like "Fuck this fucking bullshit", "Do not do drugs" and its palpable counterpart "Do drugs", certainly had a palatable groove. The act has a way of blending electro house, techno, and industrial music and not make it sound like a complete disaster.

These two weren't your typical DJs who can mix 30 tracks in a 40 minute time frame and walk away satisfied. They gave each of their tracks a chance to breathe and grow. The visuals of their set were much more engaging that the music at certain points. The duo wore jackets equipped with LED screens, and these contraptions flashed various words and items synced by the music. And who would've thought that a video of random cats would make an electro-house track entitled "Time 2 Rage" seem playful and carefree? (Terrance Pryor)