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MACHINES CRANK IT UP WITH LOVING GRACE

SHARE MACHINES CRANK IT UP WITH LOVING GRACE

What started out as a slow night ended with energy. After surviving a 45-minute instrument setup and sound check, the restless standing-room-only crowd at Club DV8 began screaming for Machines of Loving Grace to begin its set.

At 11:30 p.m., the five-man band from Southern California finally walked on stage and blasted out an hour's worth of techno-thrash featuring favorites from its two albums.Opening with "Burn Like Brilliant Trash (At Jackie's Funeral)," Machines hurled the crowd into the twilight zone with the aide of electronic sound effects, slimy green spots and blinding strobes.

Vocalist Scott Benzel's angry contortions enhanced his growling vocals with intense vitality as keyboardist Mike Fisher used a "vocorder" to give the background vocals a tinny, robotic sound.

Drummer Brad Kemp, who was hidden by a shroud of spiraling smoke for most of the show, pounded out ear-piercing back beats while bassist Andrew Stewart thunked out funky, violent undercurrents. Guitarist Stuart Kupers occasionally walked to the edge of the stage and sneered at the moshing crowd.

Regardless of the hyperactivity of the set, the unbalanced mix made it hard to decipher what Benzel was trying to sing. At some points, the overbearing mid-range threw the songs into muddy meddlings.

The mix didn't seem to faze the crowd. They kept dancing, mosh-ing and even head-banging to the often pompy beat.

Machine's hard-smacking industrial crank emerged throughout the set and especially during the song "Albert Speer." Fisher emitted metallic anvil sounds as he punched away at electronic drums set up to the right of his keyboards.

During "Terminal City," low rumbling bass feedback was used to highlight moaning chords and beeping tones.

The band and audience were caught in stop-motion animation courtesy of the various strobe lights positioned on stage, and then brought back to moving reality every time the orange and yellow stage lights illuminated the club.

"Thank you for coming down and having fun," Benzel yelled to the crowd before slipping into the spastic crowd pleaser "Trigger For Happiness."

Kupers bent out a screaming, apocalyptic solo and used the calculated massive feedback to end the song. The funky groove of "Rite Of Shiva" from the band's first album moved Benzel to strut the stage like a chicken on hot coals. Every now and then he'd nonchalantly fall back into the audience and roll on top of the outstretched hands before sliding back on stage.

"Butterfly Wings," the hit single from Machine's second album, "Concentration," exploded into a nightmarish fever of distortion while Benzel passed the microphone to various people in the front row for a shouting match.

The encore featured only one song - the furious, fluorescent array of "Lipstick 66."

Blood Of Abraham's techno hip-hop opened the show. Surgery's blend of blues and grinding alternative metal pumped up the audience with hits like "Off The A List" and "Little Debbie."

All three bands played loud, hard and strong. The energy, however, doubled its intensity when Machines of Loving Grace performed.