Moon Cat's Blog #4: Nuovo Testamento/Void Vision/Catherine Moan
Updated: Sep 29
September 24, 2023
Johnny Brenda's, Philadelphia, PA
There are a number of excellent DJ's and event promoters in the Philly area, and I hope to eventually cover all of them. So I'll start with one of the most dedicated women in the local scene, DJ Baby Berlin. As part of Nuovo Testamento's Love Lines tour, DJ Berlin curated the perfect supporting line up of female led acts to make the night truly memorable.
A great show starts with a good venue, and Johnny Brenda's is the obvious choice. This club has quickly become one of my favorite spots in Philly's Fishtown district. Dark and cozy with three (!) levels, there's ample hangout spots to grab dinner and cocktails downstairs, then catch the show on the second and third floors. Fun fact, Johnny Brenda's was a filming location in the 2015 Rocky reboot Creed. This might be why there's a random glowing bowling ball with a boxing glove on the staircase.
My partner and I showed up nice and early to give us full reign of the dance floors. The show was on a Sunday night, so it filled up slowly. Baby Berlin played her set for the first hour, setting the mood with 80's synth and adjacent tracks. I recognized Miss Kitten and the Hacker-1982, Body of Light-Time To Kill, and Soft Cell-Memorabilia to name a few.
The first live act was Catherine Moan. I've been seeing her around town a bunch supporting bands in the area's smaller clubs. I was happy to see her here at an arguably bigger show. Normally a solo artist, this time she was joined on stage by a guitarist (and also her brother?) which rounded out her light hearted vocals nicely. She closed out her set with Drop It!, an ethereal bubblegum club banger that sticks with you for days.
Next up was one of our local faves, Shari Vari of Void Vision. We've seen her at least five times now, opening for some bigger names like Spike Hellis and doing her own DJ sets. Originally from Philly, she currently resides in NYC. I'm used to seeing her play her own music which I'd describe as dark synth. Check out Body Says and Sour. However, she did something completely different this night, performing a collection of Madonna covers as "Void Toy." Shari Vari already looks and sounds strikingly similar to Madonna, so I wasn't surprised to hear she was planning a Madonna tribute . However, I was surprised at how dead-on her entire look was.
The similarity is uncanny. And as an added bonus, she had a professional backup dancer join her for most of the set. Her look too was perfect, seemly just stepping out of a Paula Abdul video.
I was impressed at how animated Shari Vari was on stage, many times keeping up with her dancer and using small props. I suspect she pushed herself out of her comfort zone to really embody Madonna's energy and stage presence. Respect.
In between acts we hit the merch table and loaded up on shirts. Admittedly, there were only a few designs we didn't already own. But I didn't have Nuovo Testamento's Love Lines tour shirt so I got myself that. And my partner got their iconic two-sided "Discoteca Italia" tee. Conveniently, the bar was right next to the merch table so I grabbed a cider while catching up with some familiar faces.
By now, the entire second and third floors of the club were packed so we were forced to stand in the back. Luckily we snagged a spot on the stairs to see over the crowd, which was clearly pumped for the headliner.
To quote post-punk.com, Nuovo Testamento "is the union of Chelsey Crowley (American) and Giacomo Zatti (Italian) of the international collaboration Terremoto, enlisting Andrea Mantione a.k.a. Masbucci (Italian), of Horror Vacui." It's interesting that their only pre-pandemic album Exposure (2019) leans more cold-wave than their current sound. But I believe the accessibility of New Earth (2021) and Love Lines (2023) can be credited for their post-pandemic success. Don't misunderstand, their music still has much to offer to the post-punk scene. For an 80's synth group, their sound has some satisfying hard edges. Giacomo pours every once of energy into his electronic drums to the point where his arms are a blur. And Andrea's all synth melodies set the foundation for Chelsey's infectious vocals that would fit right at home on the radio in 1988.
They lit the crowd on fire with their generous list of club hits like Michelle Michelle, Electricity, Wildlife, Heartbeat, and Heat. Standing in the back, I could see a good number of fans singing along. In between songs, some goofball kept yelling "How you doin'!" because... they're Italian, I guess? This is a Philly crowd after all. 🙄
By the end of the night, we were more than happy with all the performances. When you break it down, $20 is an amazing value for all that we saw. Hats off to DJ Baby Berlin for putting the night together. I was lucky enough to run into her later that week at Underground Arts to thank her in person. I think she was really happy with how it turned out. I also found out that her DJ name "Berlin" comes from a clever play on her real name Amber Lynn. How cool is that?
Infinite thanks to all the artists and DJ's that make these nights special. 💜🌙💜
*For videos from the show, check out my Insta: @yrgrrl_m00ncat