Kraftwerk performing The Mix @ Museum of Modern Art - April 16, 2012
In 2004, several of my close friends and I plotted a trip to Indio, CA for the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival. Despite being poor college students with little (to no) disposable income, the main reason for the trip was to see the then recently reunited Pixies in all their glory. And Radiohead. And The Flaming Lips. And Air. And Beck. And… Kraftwerk.
Except by the end of the one-two punch of Pixies and Radiohead on day one, we didn’t make it to Kraftwerk. Quite honestly, at the time, I wasn’t aware of the importance of the group, and the 105 degree desert weather rendered us incapable of even walking properly, let alone enduring a 20 minute walk to the opposite end of the field to see a band we didn’t really know.
Then in the summer of 2005, I and many of the same friends who went to Coachella with me, ended up working a lemonade stand (seriously) in Philadelphia during the Live 8 festival (remember that?). At some point we wandered over to a local record store where I picked up Stephen Malkmus’ Face The Truth and Kraftwerk’s live album Minimum Maximum. I remember all of this vividly because it marked an important moment in my life when I began to truly appreciate electronic music as a serious art form. Ever since then, Kraftwerk opened my mind to a plethora of other similarly-minded groups, and I’ve always held them solely responsible for changing my perspective of what electronic music could be.
And last night, after seven years of waiting, I finally had the chance to see Kraftwerk live. At the Museum of Modern Art. In beautiful 3D.
Is there really any better way to showcase the importance of Kraftwerk than in a setting like this? The answer is no.
Playing their 1991 remix album The Mix in its entirety, which is essentially a greatest hits record with slightly different arrangements of their most well known songs, Ralf Hutter led this current incarnation of Kraftwerk through a career-spanning two hour set in front of (what I estimated to be) 350 fans. Entry was not easy to come by, and once I entered the small space on the second floor of MoMA, I understood why.
This was not so much a concert as much as it was a live exhibit, showcasing one of the most essential bands in music history. Attendees were able to freely walk around the space (it purposely was not oversold) and get different perspectives of the four members of Kraftwerk as they did what they did. Which I’m still not entirely sure what that is. But it was amazing nonetheless.
The 3D visuals were stunningly sharp, had an extremely deep depth of field, and played as pivotal a role to the show as the music did. During “Pocket Calculator,” a gigantic cartoon finger hit buttons on a massive digital calculator; for “Autobahn,” we were treated to a journey on a German expressway; “Music Non-Stop” provided 3D visuals of the band doing their minimal dance moves (their feet tapped and their fingers caressed their consoles).
To explain it in words or show it in photos is somewhat pointless. That didn’t stop numerous people from taking video throughout the entire show (which was rather obnoxious). I can only say that if this show does ever go on the road (which I suspect it will, to some extent), it is something you need to experience.
Kraftwerk will complete their 8-night residency tonight with Tour De France Soundtracks. Damien and Dave will be there to cover. Check out some photos of last night’s show below…