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Tuesday, October 21, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 43.0° F  Mostly Cloudy
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Madison goes electronic as Reverence Festival heats up
Festival founder and promoter Matt Fanale: 'This music is a lot more accessible than people think.'
Festival founder and promoter Matt Fanale: 'This music is a lot more accessible than people think.'

Look no further than the MySpace page dedicated to Madison's Reverence Festival for proof that the three-day electronic music event has developed a niche following nationwide.

"The festival kicks so much ass," says "Rabbit," a 32-year-old from Massachusetts, "that I planned my vacation around it!"

"Can't wait for the show!" added Alas Vera, 24, from Baton Rouge, La.

Now in its sixth year, the Reverence Festival showcases alternative electronic music artists making waves in the subgenres of EBM, industrial, goth and synthpop.

The festival began Wednesday night at the Inferno and continues Friday at the High Noon Saloon. Saturday, Reverence 2008 concludes back at the Inferno with a seven-artist lineup headlined by Soman, the adrenaline-fueled techno/industrial DJ from Dresden, Germany.

"This is the first year we've been able to bring in someone from overseas," says Matt Fanale, the festival founder and promoter.

"He's only in the U.S. for two nights - one in L.A. and the other here in Madison," says Fanale. "I think that says something about the tremendous reputation the electronic music scene has developed here."

Fanale has helped mold that reputation. He's performed for years locally as Caustic and DJ Eurotic. He began promoting electronic music shows in 2002 when he started Deadbeat Productions. As a performer and promoter, Fanale has tried to change ideas about live electronic performances.

"I believe in giving a show," Fanale told the webzine Rock Star Journalism. "I believe in having some live shit actually going on, and I believe in having a good time. People avoid shows in this scene, and I'm talking industrial in general, because there isn't a show. Most people who perform are just standing there twisting knobs and looking like they're checking their email."

His philosophy guides Reverence lineups. For evidence of that, look at YouTube clips of 2008 headliner Soman. They show the muscular DJ bobbing his sweaty, shirtless body under a strobe light as stage right, a woman clad in skimpy goth gear dances to the unrelenting beat.

Fanale says what's unique about the sixth installment of Reverence is its emphasis on dance.

"The focus this year is a lot more on dance music," he said. "We've got some of the bigger dance acts of the genre coming in, like the elektro band Scandy."

Not all the Reverence acts will rely on crushing industrial beats to move the audience. The Sacramento act Claire Voyant brings a down-tempo, new-age ambience to their haunting and beautiful vibe.

Local and regional acts will include the Gothsicles and Fanale's own new project, the Parasite Twins.

"It's a duo I'm in with Brian Schuh, and it's totally different from my other acts," says Fanale. "The kind of music we do is more like the Pet Shop Boys and the Scissor Sisters."

Reverence is the only event Fanale still promotes under his otherwise dormant Deadbeat Productions. He shed much of the risk and responsibility of promoting in 2007 to "spend more time with my wife."

He considered ending Reverence, too, after the fifth annual event concluded last year.

"We emphasized local acts last year because we thought it might be the last Reverence, and we wanted to celebrate the accomplishments of our scene," says Fanale.

Late in 2007, Fanale says he secretly decided to pursue a sixth Reverence if he could successfully book the kind of bands he really wanted. He quietly pursued those acts and announced the festival lineup last January.

Fanale says he hopes Reverence 2008 will attract adventurous music fans who may not know a whole lot about EBM and industrial: "This music is a lot more accessible than people think. The beats are hard, but that doesn't mean they're evil."

What Fanale most enjoys about the culture of club electronics is its tolerant and inclusive ethic. "It's not a judgmental scene," he says. "It's something anyone could feel included in. You see people in Packer T-shirts standing next to doms. It's fun stuff - it's very much what I love about Madison."

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