Portland fans were treated to an evening of dark, mesmerizing music.
Mississippi Studios, Portland, OR
Criminal serves as a coming out of sorts for Luis Vasquez. On the prior releases that he recorded under the moniker the Soft Moon, Vasquez allowed his dread to envelop his songs, keeping his rage on at a simmer. Now, with his fourth album, Vasquez allows that anger to boil over, making Criminal the most assaultive and in-your-face Soft Moon release yet.
The Berlin native came loaded to match the album’s intensity for his Portland show in front of a sold-out crowd at Mississippi Studios. Kicking off with the album’s title track, Vasquez began the show hammering on an upside-down metal garbage can as he bellowed into the microphone. Flanked by a bassist and percussionist, Vasquez spent the hour-long set exploring his Soft Moon catalog as he alternated between synths, guitar and beating the living shit out of that trash receptacle.
Even if the Soft Moon’s newest output pushes closer to the industrial territory of Nine Inch Nails, Vasquez keeps his songs from going completely over that precipice. His lyrics were buried beneath layers of sound, but his presence on the stage demonstrated the fury present in his songs. Vasquez flailed about, pounding on his keyboard and howling into the microphone.
Though the set concentrated on newer songs, Vasquez did touch on music from his entire career. “Die Life” saw the audience explode into the mosh pit while the Motorik rhythm of “Dead Love” was a welcome addition from the Soft Moon’s first, self-titled album.
Vasquez’s stage banter belied the aggression of his music. In between songs, he thanked us for coming out and even seemed affable. Much of the audience was made up of younger Goths and punks with the occasional older fan sprinkled throughout. People danced during the 14-song set and only at the end did a mosh pit erupt in the middle of the floor.
Opening the show was Boy Harsher, a group out of Northampton, Massachusetts, that threatened to steal the night from Vasquez and the Soft Moon. However, electronic duo Jae Matthews (vocals) and August Miller (production), turned in a set of stirring coldwave that had the audience dancing more intensely than at any point during the Soft Moon set. Just as aggressive as Vasquez’s songs, yet made more for the club, Boy Harsher’s set was more hypnotic and less filled with rage. Matthews’ dry vocals floated over music made for the dancefloor with its rich bass funk and crystalline synth lines. By the time band played its single, “Motion,” the crowd was asking them to stay on the stage all night.
Between the Soft Moon and Boy Harsher, Portland fans were treated to an evening of dark, mesmerizing music one that could have extended into the cold recesses of the early morning by the sound of the applause when Vasquez finally left the stage just past midnight.