KMFDM at the House of Blues, September 26

Photos by Nellie Sweet

A swarm of KMFDM fans in shin-swallowing boots, leather bondage kilts, and fishnets stream by as my friend Andy and I loiter in the House of Blues lobby, killing time until Andy’s concert buddies show up. When they do, the girls come bearing gossip: they were at KMFDM's afterparty in NYC last night, and they report that the band mentioned being nervous about playing Boston.

It’s unsettling news, but not too surprising. After all, we’re standing on the grave of Axis, the site of a disastrous 2003 KMFDM show. That night six years ago, the band members were all sick as dogs, and even though they put on a more-than-decent show, the Axis audience was legendarily awful. KMFDM hasn’t played Boston proper since (they did swing by the Middle East for their 20th anniversary tour) and skipped Massachusetts completely on their Hau Ruck tour.

Tonight's crowd is the expected mix of grizzled old-school rivetheads and folks like me who first jumped on KMFDM’s industrial wave of destruction as high schoolers in the mid-'90s. Less expected is the horde of dewy-faced young things. I suspect more than a few of them were lured here by the openers, the Aussie electro-industrial duo Angelspit.

Angelspit come out dressed like mutant dungeon masters: lead singer Destroyx is clad in her trademark corset and kabuki warpaint; knob-twiddling synth wizard ZooG is sporting a black Pyramid Head-style butcher's apron, a cyberpunk crest of plastic spikes woven into a landing strip of hair, and no eyebrows. Their chilly future-stomp ditties, which sounds a lot like ADULT. getting hacked apart by chainsaws in the Thunderdome, successfully whip the crowd into the kind of fist-pumping frenzy that failed to materialize for KMFDM's last two warm-up acts (that'd be Bile in '03 and DJ? Acucrack in '04). To our left, a lanky lad in a camo pants and a military-dictator hat is a one-man mosh pit, throwing elbows and shrieking, "Set this bitch on fire! Who's with me?" In response, a fauxhawked kid in a "Govern Your Soul" cutoff wifebeater ambles over to the General, rocks out silently in solidarity with him for a few seconds, and then leaves the lone nutter to his own thing.

As they close their set, Angelspit exhort us to give it up for "the masters, the inventors of industrial rock and roll" and tromp offstage, right before roadies hoist KMFDM's banner ("Kein Mitlied World Tour 2009: 25 Years of the Ultra-Heavy Beat") to rallying cries of "KMFDM sucks!"

And then they're on: In his cap and aviator shades, lead singer (and founding band member) Sascha Konietzko resembles a cross between Maynard James Keenan and Hunter S. Thompson, sucking on a cigarette. From the first song, it's an all-out sensory assault that kicks off with the orchestral thrash of "D.I.Y.," the opening salvo to a solid set of bombastic classics sprinkled with top-shelf new joints. By song three, "Tohuvabahu," the mosh pit is in full swing, and it's a refreshingly compassionate scrum: when the General wipes out, Fauxhawk hauls him back on his feet. In a rare pocket of non-ruckus, someone howls, "I'm so happy!"

After a 13-song blitzkrieg that ends with a shred-tastic version of "A Drug Against War," the band file offstage. A guy in front of me takes this brief pause as an opportunity to wipe his face on his girlfriend's fluffy platinum-blonde mohawk.

Konietzko hasn't addressed the audience much tonight, but when the band returns, he's cooked up a special encore intro just for us: "Hello, Boston. It's hard to start, but once you spark, you can't retard," he announces in his gravelly nicotine rasp, not exactly nailing the local brogue. They launch into the banjo hoedown that prefaces "WWIII," following it up with a brain-melting version of "Adios." The final slug in their double-barreled encore is "Godlike." Sure, KMFDM may have copped that Slayer riff, but they're sure as hell owning it right now. A spooky baby-voiced sample coos: "We bow down. We bow down." And we do, hunching and thrashing until drummer Andy Selway hurls his sticks into the crowd and Captain K throws us the goat as a farewell. Looks like we've atoned for our past Lansdowne transgressions -- maybe KMFDM won't take another five years to return.

Listen to the full set list:

KMFDM "Kein Mitleid" Tour 2009
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