KRAFTWERK MUSIC FESTIVAL AT MoMA PS1 FEATURING FRANCOIS K AND RALF HÜTTER
First, a brief history from an excerpt of MoMA’s event description regarding Kraftwerk’s eight night performance residency and exhibition:
Over eight consecutive nights, MoMA presents a chronological exploration of the sonic and visual experiments of Kraftwerk with a live presentation of their complete repertoire in the Museum’s Marron Atrium. Each evening consists of a live performance and 3-D visualization of one of Kraftwerk’s eight studio albums. Kraftwerk anticipated the impact of technology on art and everyday life, creating sounds and visuals that capture the human condition in the age of mobility and telecommunication. Their innovative looping techniques and computerized rhythms, which had a major influence on the early development of hip-hop and electronic dance music, remain among the most commonly sampled sounds across a wide range of music genres.
Needless to say, this event – the first of it’s kind ever in art or music history – a complete retrospective both musical and visual of a single artist, sold out in seconds online and I was one of many who were absolutely crushed. For me personally as an electronic musician and DJ, there is no more influential or more important band than Kraftwerk in music today. Luckily, my wife noticed that this little, smaller event at MoMA PS1 in Long Island City still had tickets available, and featured one of my all time favorite DJ’s, The Paradise Garage & Body & Soul‘s brilliant Francois K performing a live set tribute of sorts, and promised a special ‘guest appearance‘. I had such a phenomenal time at this ‘party’ that I injured my foot dancing on the stupid gravel in the courtyard that surrounds MoMA PS1. After some of the shows were completed prior to this day, I reluctantly watched some videos of the Kraftwerk shows on YouTube only to be disgusted by the lack of respect the people who beat me out for tickets were showing the band, talking through the entire performance, taking pictures, complaining, etc. It can be oh-so annoying when something special catches the eye of the ‘norm’ and suddenly rappers are collaborating with David Guetta and the House Music you’ve worshipped and supported for years is suddenly gone.
LOL. Well, that’s just the way it goes.
Don’t get me wrong, I love when people open their minds to something new, even if it took them 38 years to notice what I’ve been pointing at and playing and screaming, “LOOK HOW COOL THIS IS!” the entire time. What bothers me, is when people are only there because it’s the ‘cool’ thing to do. No other reason. But you know what? Really, that doesn’t bother me either. Something good always comes out of it.
Many old school DJs complain about how easy it’s become for just about anyone to be or say they’re a DJ these days (and trust me, everyone is a DJ these days) thanks to affordable beat-matching computer software like Traktor or Serato enabling anyone to play flawlessly, but to me it’s no different than when people said playing two records together with turntables wasn’t an art form or when they said keyboards and samplers weren’t real musical instruments. I think, fad or whatever, eventually the talentless fall by the wayside and we’re left with an artist or music genre we couldn’t live without now. Like Hip Hop. Like House. Like Techno.
Say what you will about Dubstep, it’s already lasted at least a year longer than I predicted it would, and it’s stars have outgrown the basic concept of the genre. Now they’re really starting to make some interesting music. Or look at that new ‘Indie‘ version of Hip-Hop – those rap artists who are just as sick to death of hearing about Eminem’s problems or sipping champagne at ‘da club’ as you are. Not because it’s bad music, but because we’re outgrowing that crap. It’s growing. Don’t believe me? Check out new(er) rap group Odd Future Feat. Hodgy Beats, Domo Genesis & Tyler, the Creator’s song ‘Rella‘, or South African rap group Die Antwoord’s ‘I Fink Ur Freeky’. After years of only having Nas, The Roots, and Beasties to turn to (or should I really be saying) find online easily, Rap in my humble opinion is finally an exciting and dangerous art form again.
What bothers me about people liking the ‘new thing’ for no reason other than MTV telling them what to think, is when they buy my ticket and go to the show only to complain on YouTube or MoMA’s site the next day about some jerks just standing there pushing buttons. Let’s forget about Kraftwerk’s whole robot thing, how could you go to a one of a kind, first of it’s kind musical retrospective of one artist’s entire 38 year catalogue of music, and not do any research on what you might be seeing?
This isn’t a one minute Kraftwerk tribute performance by the kids from Glee, this isn’t Ke$ha’s two greatest hits, it’s an entire ALBUM performed by the artist, doing their original concept for you, which gave birth to Techno, and gave Afrika Bambaataa the inspiration to create ‘Planet Rock’ which helped Hip Hop jump out of the Bronx and into Italian boys’ Monte Carlo’s radios which helped give Tommy Boy Records a name which eventually led to ‘Running’ by Information Society which eventually funded De La Soul’s first album which eventually led to everyone stealing their rhyme styles and De La getting no credit for changing the face of Rap music just like the Ultramagnetic MC’s did before them.
It’s like going to see the Beatles at Shea Stadium and complaining they all had the same hairdo, or going to see Michael Jackson and complaining about him wearing a white glove and walking backwards through the whole show.
So let me apparently be the first to say I thought the Francois K Kraftwerk Music Festival at MoMA PS1 Sunday, April 15, 2012 was absolutely brilliant.
As usual, I thought the dome-shaped room was filled with more curiosity-seekers and art farts than actual fans – the real ones smart enough to bring their children. My wife was very impressed by the people who brought their kids. She kept saying how smart it was to educate and introduce their children to a unique genre of music in a club-like atmosphere and the real art of DJing by one of the best DJs on this earth (down from day one), without being surrounded by drugs or ridiculous people pretending to be famous, the kids all wearing ear-plugs immersed in the amazing 3-D visuals and Kraftwerk’s amazing music!
I keep reading about how boring it was and why would anyone want to see a bunch of guys standing around pushing buttons… WAKE UP! You’re not supposed to watch. You’re supposed to DANCE. That’s the whole point. The rest of the entire world gets it, why does it take this country so long to catch on?
Must we still have Metallica, or Pearl Jam in front of us or some longhaired guy doing a forty-minute guitar solo for it to be considered a legitimate form of music? Must it be Lady Gaga at a piano playing the most basic of chords (not intended to be a dis, LG, I recognize you know what you’re doing, lol) for someone to say, ‘MUSICIAN’?
All popular music today (including Gaga, BEP, Nicki Minaj, Nine Inch Nails, Marilyn Manson, Linkin Park, etc.) contains or is some form of Techno or music that Kraftwerk has either created from scratch or influenced so heavily that it completely changed the direction of popular music from their very first globally released album Autobahn way back in 1974.
Eminem once said ‘Nobody listens to Techno!’ Really? What planet is he living on?! The entire WORLD listens to Techno. Today Techno artists like Fatboy Slim and Daft Punk perform side by side with the Red Hot Chili Peppers. David Guetta has produced the biggest selling digital single of all time with the Black Eyed Peas’ ‘I Gotta Feeling’.
Not one person besides my wife, myself and a few die-hards cheered at the brilliant performance of ‘Numbers‘ and ‘Computer World 2‘ between the polite and gracious ‘special guest’ Kraftwerk front man Ralf Hütter (whom I had the privilege of shaking hands with and speaking with at the show – he was wandering around casually chatting with fans) and DJ Francois K – who’s set was an absolutely brilliant journey through the years of Kraftwerk’s music and those that it’s influenced.
Not a single ‘music lover‘ made that connection or acknowledged what he was doing. My wife and I were dancing in front of the DJ booth the entire day and everyone around us (with the exception of a few heads you know who you are) looked at us like we were from another planet, lol. The bouncers were nasty to everyone but us, which was nice. They kept people out of our way so we could dance – and they knew we wouldn’t crowd the booth like everyone else.
It wasn’t until we took a restroom break and came back to find that suddenly they had decided NOW was the time to dance, for no reason whatsoever, after HOURS of brilliant music. Ridiculous. But at least a few people realized something truly special was going on, and as I said earlier, I think that’s great.
Regardless, word on the street is Kraftwerk is in the studio working on a ninth album and it looks like I may get to finally see them in a proper concert after all!
(with fingers, eyes, legs, arms, toes and wires crossed in hopes of getting tickets this time, your humble UF contributor)