Five years ago, Matt Fanale organized a musical going-away party for a member of the Madison industrial/ electronic hybrid Stromkern. He called the event Reverence, and it lasted just one night.
This week the fifth annual Reverence (July 25-28) runs a full four nights, with shows at the Inferno and the High Noon Saloon. It features everyone from Stromkern to Virginia-based dark-punk/death-rock lights Bella Morte and dreamy synth-pop veterans Iris. It's the biggest the festival has ever been, says Fanale, who still organizes the event by himself.
But it may also be the final time fans from all over the country converge on Madison to get their fix of hardbeats, electronic pop and goth-flavored dance music. "I'm going to stop promoting in general, in order to get myself a little more financially stable," explains Fanale, who books shows locally under the Dead Beat Productions moniker. "I also want to spend more time with my wife, who's been incredibly tolerant over the last couple years. I may still keep doing Reverence every year. This isn't a final decision. But it would be a good year to round things out with."
It would be a shame if the festival went away. But it's understandable how the 32-year-old Fanale might want a break from the 12 months of organizing it takes to put on Reverence. That's on top of his day job as a state policy analyst for Medicaid and an increasingly busy schedule bringing his industrial act Caustic to festivals in the States and Europe. (In August Caustic travels to the U.K. to perform at the 10th anniversary of the multi-day alternative electronic music festival Infest.)
Although Fanale is proud that he's brought some important touring acts to Reverence over the years, he thinks the festival's greatest contribution has been its support of homegrown goth, industrial, EBM and synth-pop bands. "For a city the size we are, Madison has about 10 bands that are doing their own thing and often playing to much bigger crowds out of town than they do here," he notes. "Last year, Stromkern toured with [industrial-dance pioneers] Frontline Assembly, and this year the Gothsicles are also playing Infest. That's the main reason to do this: To celebrate all the great bands and the great music coming out of here."
Whatever happens with Reverence after this year, Fanale is hopeful that his chosen form of underground music is growing. Despite the commercial flourishing of rock-oriented industrialists Nine Inch Nails in the '90s, most bands that play Reverence still exist within a fairly tight subculture.
"Overseas this music - we like to call it hardbeats now - is more popular. Here it's very much the underground. You read reviews and stories about the underground hip-hop scene, but in that genre people can sell by the millions. This is very different. In this scene you're doing well if you sell in the thousands.
"It's changing. A band called VNV Nation played Coachella this year, and that's a step forward. And AFI have a synth-pop side project that's starting to chart. Things are building up. It's happening little by little."