Krautrock Classics: Concert Review
(Friday, June 1)
The all-covers concert "Krautrock Classics: An Evening of Cosmic German Music" featured artists like Nite Jewel, Peanut Butter Wolf, Carlos Niño and psych-rocker Ariel Pink.
An insider's who's-who of Los Angeles electro musicians and beatmakers paid tribute to their favorite Krautrock artists Friday night at the Ford Theatre in Hollywood. The all-covers Krautrock Classics: An Evening of Cosmic German Music closed with Nite Jewel, Peanut Butter Wolf and guests performing Kraftwerk's iconic Computer World album, as the crowd filled the aisles dancing. Other performers included producer Carlos Nino; psych-rocker Ariel Pink, who played guitar with White Magic's Mira Billotte;and Jimmy Tamborello's Dntel project featuring The One AM Radio's Hrishikesh Hirway. The event was presented by the Internet radio station Dublab and German cultural institute the Goethe-Institut.
Divided into two acts, the concert's first half featured artists playing single cover tracks, and Dublab DJ Nanny Cantaloupe played beats between the acts dressed in a silver space cloak costume. The concert opened with producer and founding DublabDJ Daedelus covering Rudiger Lorenz's reworking of "The Star-Spangled Banner" called "Independence."
Next was Pharaohs -- featuring Andreas Enteria, Cloudland Canyon, Casey Butler as Stellar Rahim, Suzanne Kraft, LCD Soundsystem and The Melvins collaborator David Scott Stone and the acclaimed German composer and experimentalist Ulrich Krieger -- which played a selection from Manuel Gottsching's (of Ash Ra Tempel and Ashra) cosmic solo album, E2-E4. Despite it being still early in the night, the performance was exciting, thanks in large to Stone's dynamic manhandling of a modular synthesizer, giving the appearance of a mad scientist plugging in patch cables and then tearing them out with a mischievous air of destruction.
Dressed in a flowing pink kimono, Billotte appeared with Pink as an unannounced guest, and the two worked their way through The Inner Space's "I'm Hiding My Nightingale" from the Kobi Jaeger's 1969 film Kamasutra - Vollendung der liebe. (The Inner Space would later change its name to Can.) Stumbling over the chords in the first chorus, Pink asked the audience if they could start over, and to the people's supportive applause, they did -- with great success, giving a terrifically pure and minimalist show that was accented by the rest of the evening's intensely pounding performances.
Cameron Stallones of Sun Araw put together a group called the Sun Araw Band VIII for the night, featuring The Wind drummer Chip Knechtel and solo performer Diva Dompe (under the name Diva), former BlackBlack singer and daughter of Bauhaus drummer Kevin Haskins. They performed a version of the Swiss band Krokodil's cover of jazz great Pharoah Sanders' "The Creator Has a Master Plan" that was exciting with sharp, skyrocket guitars and drums that built to a pounding heartbeat, while the baseline stayed steady, leading the audience throughout the chaotic groove.
Next, Los Angeles newcomers ESP asked the audience to stand and dance for their rendition of Can's "Vitamin C," which came out highly digital with only electronic instruments. By this time the show was running late due to the set changes between each act, and in light of all its successes, the night's single major flaw was becoming clear: Despite all the best efforts and good intentions, hardly any band could perform these songs with the confidence as if they were their own. Rather, it felt at times like an elevated karaoke, rife with minor mishaps and slips. But that is to be expected, perhaps, and was not enough to taint the night.
For those familiar with the material, the event served as a righteous tribute to the music, presented by almost an absurdly broad group of talented musicians who inhabit a very specific fringe. And to any for whom Krautrock is new territory, it served as a living primer to the music, presented strongly in the format. In addition, the 1,245-capacity open-air amphitheater served as a cozy setting, and with the beautiful architecture, the psychedelic live visuals by Alexandra Pelly and Miko Revereza and the smell of marijuana floating through the air, the audience was entranced.
The first act's best performances came at its end with Dntel's cover of Faust's "Jennifer" that blended traditional instruments with Tamborello's expert computer bloops and bleeps to form a moving drone driven by exceptional drumming. Hip-hop DJ Gaslamp Killer then appeared onstage to introduce the act's final performers, Carlos Nino & Friends, and praise Dublab, saying, "Dublab changed my life, and so did Carlos Niño." It was a big claim coming from one of the scene's most respected figures. Nino led his band through Popol Vuh's heavenly "Steh Auf, Zieh Mich Dir Nach," conducting behind an arrangement of percussive chimes, bells and a bong, while Gaby Hernandez belted the song's soaring proclamations.
Following an intermission, dressed in all white, Nite Jewel (aka Ramona Gonzalez) took the stage with her husband and frequent collaborator Cole M. Greif-Neill and Peanut Butter Wolf, who appeared in a black wig as his mustached alter ego, Folerio (see photo at bottom). The three started into Kraftwerk's Computer World facing the audience behind flanking synthesizers, Nite Jewel and Peanut Butter Wolf sharing the mostly speaking vocal parts. Soon, audience members began filing forward and filling the aisles to dance, while guests Secret Circuit and then Nedelle Torrisi joined the show.
Due to time constraints, the band was unable to perform the entire album, but there seemed to be no ill will from the audience. It was just that kind of night. Earlier, Dublab DJ Mark "Frosty" McNeill thanked the audience for its support of their station and allowing them to put all these "weirdos" onstage. But said weirdos weren't just onstage, they were in the audience too, dancing and cheering along, and would have happily gone all night could they have.
Pharaohs: Selection from E2-E4
White Magic: "I’m Hiding My Nightingale"
Sun Araw Band VIII: "The Creator Has a Master Plan"
ESP: "Vitamin C"
Carlos Niño & Friends: "Steh Auf, Zieh Mich Dir Nach"
Nite Jewel & Friends: Selections from Computer World
Photos by Daiana Feuer