Yesterday we went to see KMFDM at FritzClub im Postbahnhof. This partially bombed out complex of railway buildings and warehouses was originally built as an adjunct to the nearby Ostbahnhof in the early twentieth century in order to handle incoming and outgoing mail for the whole of the German Reich. Nowadays of course we all email, sms txt, and twitter so much less snail mail is sent by rail, and the buildings have either been left to decay or renovated into exhibition spaces or club venues.
The Postbahnhof, with its bare red-brick vaulted roof and rusting iron girders, was therefore an appropriate venue for some explosive industrial rock and electronic music from KMFDM and support group Patenbrigade: Wolff.
The support was supposed to be Industrial-shock-metal mentalists Limbogott, who I wouldn't have minded going to see, but unfortunately they had to cancel due to illness. Instead we got Patenbrigade: Wolff, who actually weren't half bad (that is to say, the first half of the set was good, but the other half...).
Hier beginnt der Demokratische Sektor!
Patenbrigade started out more like performance artists; the stage was sealed off with black and yellow 'roadworks' tape, revolving yellow warning beacons shone out through the dry ice fog, and there was a 'men at work' triangular traffic sign in place. Standing on the stage were four men dressed in flourescent orange work overalls and yellow hard hats, and whilst the two central guys were playing electronic keyboards as if they were hydraulic road-drills, the other two slouched around drinking from bottles of beer and generally behaving like tyical workmen.
The music was a mix of thumping electronic drum'n'bass overlaid with loops of repetitive electronic riffs and samples from old German news reports and public information messages. The latter were augmented by black and white film footage of DDR-era Soviet military displays under the shadow of the Fernsehturm, of the building of the Berlin wall, of the contruction of the early Russian Modernism showpiece Stalinallee (now Karl-Marx Allee), of televised speeches by Erich Honecker, a smidegeon of Nazi era propoganda films ('Vorsicht, Feind hört mit!'), and bizzarely enough of hazardous substance signs ('Sehr giftig!').
This YouTube video gives you a taste of their style:
After a great first half the impact sadly started to weaken, particularly when the woman of the group started to sing more and more. Her Health and Safety Inspektorin act was good on Gefahrstoffe, but she didn't really have the voice to carry full-length songs. And then for some reason Patenbrigade sounded more and more like third-rate Pet Shop Boys, or was I just getting bored by then?
Anyway, I soon woke up when KMFDM came on and exploded into action. This is part of their 'Kein Mitleid' tour, ostensibly to promote their new album 'Blitz'. Whilst they performed a lot of tracks from Blitz (which is a very good album by the way), they also trawled their back catalogue for their greatest hits. These they attacked with renewed energy much to the delight of the crowd, some of whom were slam-dancing in the mosh pit with much verve to the likes of Hau Ruck, WWIII, Drug Against War, and Free Your Hate.
The gang were obvioulsy enjoying themselves; Andy Selway assaulted the drums whilst grinning like a maniac; Jules smoked heroically throughout, sharing a drag or two with members of the audience, whilst doing some terrific RSI-inducing riffs; Steve White (who always makes me think of the Brummy Barry out of Auf Wiedersehen Pet) looked less like a last-minute session musician and more like one of the group; and Sascha went as far as taking off his dark glasses once or twice, even allowing folks to push cameras two inches from his face without head-butting them. But when somebody climbed onto the stage waving a beer, Sascha soon showed him the way off. Even Lucia stopped doing impressions of Tracey Emin sucking a lemon, and cracked a smile now and then.
Lucia did sing wonderfully though; so much energy, so much attitude. Her virtuosity from husky sensuality to hate-filled screaming whilst yet remaining in tune complimented Sascha's cool, hard vocals always just on the edge of violence. No-one but Sascha could sing 'The beatings will continue, until morale improves' and sound like a BDSM disciplinarian who really means it.
The music was amazing and reverberated through the room in blasts of sonic booms. Above it all soared Jules' and Steve's riff crescendos, whilst Sascha and Lucia twiddled with whatever it is on their podiums and added rich electronic texture and samples to the acoustic weave (or at least, I assume that's what Sascha and Lucia are doing. Or maybe those stands are just something for Lucia to squirm sexily against, and for Sascha to look like he's doing something constructive when he's not barking teutonically into the microphone).
Looking around the FritzClub, it was sobering to think that the audience hardly packed out this small venue for such a fantastic musical experience, and yet just a few days before U2 had managed to fill the Berlin Olympiastadion with their bland MOR stadium rock. Ah well, I have no pity for the masses (if you don't get it, google is your friend!).