Dreamers – Michael Rother and Dieter Moebius and Hans Lampe
Michael Rother, Dieter Moebius, Hans Lampe, St. Vincent @ Barrio
7:00pm, Fri 16 Mar 2012
Despite my German background, krautrock has always been a bit of a novelty for me. But I’ve always recognised its importance as a precursor to industrial music, which is a genre I absolutely love. And when I saw this lineup in the Festival Guide, I recognised the names of Rother and Moebius… but couldn’t immediately connect them to any particular bands.
A bit of research yields the names Kraftwerk, Neu!, and Harmonia – okay, I’m more interested now… but not enough to commit.
So: I’m poking around the Festival site the day before this show, procrastinating over whether to actually buy a ticket; after all, it was probably a three-hour chunk of the schedule, and I could see a lot of other shows in three hours. But I’m
procrastinating poking around anyway, when I suddenly spied something at the bottom of the page: “You may also enjoy… St. Vincent”.
And my internal monologue said: Yes… I most certainly do enjoy St. Vincent. How nice of you to bring St. Vincent up, Festival site. Why would you do so?
I click the link… and my internal monologue screamed ohmygodohmygodohmygodohmygodohmygod like a starstruck schoolgirl for a good ten minutes, during which time I’d managed to control myself enough to buy a ticket to the Dreamers session. My reasoning was sound: go to Barrio for the krautrock, stay for St. Vincent.
I arrive at Barrio a good half-hour early; I’m second in the queue, and I chat with the number one guy for ages about everything musical, swapping band stories and talking about great albums. When Barrio eventually opened its doors, there’s maybe a hundred people waiting; there’s no rush to the front, though, just a bunch of friendly mingling. I sit at the front of the little seated area and have a great chat with an older couple, again comparing musical notes that – because of our age difference – are incredibly interesting and challenging.
Dieter Moebius comes out to appreciative applause, waves without smiling, and stands at a small table of Equipment With Knobs. He twiddles a few knobs, a beat kicks in – a bit of a cheer goes up – and then Dieter drops the bass in… and it’s like being punched in the chest. After a couple of minutes, I spot an old Uni friend I haven’t seen for fifteen years; I stand up to join him and am surprised that Dieter’s subwoofer-laden tracks literally vibrate my canvas shorts.
Dieter Moebius: pants-vibratingly good.
After maybe half-an-hour, Dieter leaves; people start scurrying about the stage setting gear up. Eventually Hans Lampe appears, and responds to the crowd’s cheer with a cheery grin; he sits behind his electronic drum kit, puts his headphones on, gives himself a sixteen beat count in, and starts drumming. And then he holds that beat for the best part of fifteen minutes, with maybe a three-beat flourish every minute or so. Dieter reappears and returns to his knob-twiddling without recognition of the crowd; then Michael Rother comes out to a roar, waves, picks up his guitar, and starts meshing his tones in with the rhythms of the other two.
It may sound like a negative to say that every track sounded the same: Hans gives himself a long count in, then lays down the beat; Dieter then creates a wobbly bass underpinning, twiddling over many bars until a groove emerges, and Rother uses guitar (or, occasionally, keys) to create texture. Hold the beat for at least ten minutes, then reverse the buildup. Yes, they played Neu!’s most recognisable track, Hallogallo – listen to that, and stretch it out for ninety minutes.
That’s it. That’s their entire performance. And no-one was complaining; this is what we turned up to see. This was, most certainly, krautrock.
And it was brilliant.
Maybe I was swayed by their personalities; Hans always looked like he was amazed to be there. Even when he was waiting to come onstage he had a smile on his face, and he always removed his headphones to hear the audience applause. Dieter, on the other hand, captured every stereotype of the serious artiste, standing very straight and twiddling knobs with no emotion crossing his face. Rother was awesome, controlling the mood of all pieces with his guitar; he, too, looked amazed to be there, but when he was coagulating their pieces together he was the epitome of focus.
But, when the Germans left the stage – Dieter still yet to crack a smile – the evening was only half-over for me; I still wanted to bask in St. Vincent’s glory.
I held my spot on the fence, which happened to be directly in front of where Annie Clark – who essentially is St. Vincent, especially in a studio sense – eventually played. And when Annie and her band (drummer with an odd double-kick, double-snare, double-hi-hat setup, a young lass on a Moog playing basslines and backing vocals; and a keyboard player) appeared, I was enchanted from the get-go; whilst the crowd seemed most familiar with one of my least favourite songs – Cruel – I was most interested in earlier material: the stunning Marrow. The bludgeoning ascension of Black Rainbow. And I was beyond happy with that.
But then came the encore. And, more specifically, Your Lips Are Red.
Now, that song has always been a little bit special to me – it’s blunt and cold and abrasive up front, but dissolves into the sweetest “your skin’s so fair it’s not fair / you remind me of city graffiti” refrain at the end that I just well up with tears. So to be standing mere metres from Annie when she moulded that gorgeous ending out of noise tonight… well, that was a proper teary emotional moment.
Yep, that was a bloody good evening. One of the best.