Luis Vasquez and band tear it up above a violent red strobe, shaking the walls of the White Hotel down to its foundation - this show feels distinctly like a homecoming.
It’ll take something pretty special to scare these walls.
Enter The Soft Moon, the industrial post-punk project of Luis Vasquez, whose music may have the sense-pounding savagery needed to take on this venue. Vasquez and his band come up with a killer set, balancing aggression and desperation, doing a decade’s worth of music justice.
There are only three people on stage, but equipment is everywhere. Vasquez and his band manage to spread across like spider legs, the singer doing his best to be in as many places as possible, jumping around and moshing with himself.
They fly through a mix of songs from recent album Criminaland from the band’s older discography. No song lasts more than a few minutes, which is probably a good thing considering how ferocious their delivery is. The band channel Nine Inch Nails early on with ‘Burn’; ‘Like a Father’ brings the deep, bum-flapping bass of a Berlin tech track to a room much more used to such sort of music.
A strobe placed in the back corner of the stage is relentless, matching the heavy melee of synths, cymbals, distorted guitars and Vasquez’ screams that hold up for the entire hour-long set.
When the style and intensity of each song are so similar, as they are in the case of Soft Moon, it becomes the little things that matter. Applied silence has a huge impact, like on songs such as ‘Choke’ or ‘Black’, where the split seconds of band-drop-out catches the crowd’s breath and raise the tension in the room.
Vasquez’ willingness to grab every instrument around him also goes a long way to show his commitment and talent. On ‘Circles’, he tends to synths and snares, whilst thrashing his black mop hair between gasps into the mic. It looks both manic and meticulous; Vasquez hits every note and beat, yet seems to lose his mind in the process.
The loss of control Vasquez acts with conjures images of Manchester’s own epileptic icon Ian Curtis. The influence of Joy Division is found elsewhere, especially on songs ‘Far’ and ‘The Pain’, with punk rock pace, chorus-pedal guitars and hopeless lyrics: “How can you love... someone like me...” Perhaps it’s the homecoming effect of being played in Manchester, but both songs are definite set stand-outs.
Holding together the onslaught of sounds, the band are just as impressive as their frontman, jumping from multiple percussion kits and keyboards - allowing Vasquez to run riot to a hypnotised audience.
For the encore, Vasquez takes a maraca on stage with him to shake against the mic. With all the carnage going on around him, this is an act akin to waving a water gun in a war zone. They end with the dark thriller theme ‘Want’ – Vasquez slaps bongos, makes his guitar wail like a stressed out baby and stands above a violent red strobe. It’s a fittingly feral way to end a hugely successful night.
The walls of the White Hotel will be shaking with fear for weeks to come.
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Photography: Daniela Vorndran