As part of my ongoing arts and culture education, Audrey took me to see Kraftwerk at Disney Hall last week. I know nothing about electronic music, but apparently for someone who is a fan of the genre seeing Kraftwerk is like an engineer meeting Nikola Tesla or Wernher von Braun, i.e. you bow down while chanting “we’re not worthy” when they appear. The band was doing eight shows over four nights, each show featuring a different album played in full along with a “best of” set, and tickets had sold out in a matter of minutes.
I went in knowing nothing about what was going to happen, beyond the fact that it might be weird. Those suspicions were confirmed after my ticket was taken and I was handed a pair of 3-D glasses, and I settled in for a fun evening. The lights went down, the curtain dropped, and there on the stage were four 60-something Germans, each standing at a lighted console, all in front of a giant screen, with nothing else on stage. Also, they were wearing unitards, because when you’re a 67 year old German electronica legend, why not?
The show was bizarre in a very fun way. The girl was extraordinarily happy, I was entertained, the Germans were very German, and – surprisingly – I thought the music was all right; I even grabbed a copy of Autobahn from iTunes to add to the music collection. Even better, afterwards I read a bit about the band and discovered the following fun tidbit:
The band is notoriously reclusive, providing rare and enigmatic interviews, using life-size mannequins and robots to conduct official photo shoots, refusing to accept mail and not allowing visitors at Kling Klang Studio, whose precise location they used to keep secret. Another notable example of this eccentric behavior was reported to Johnny Marr of the Smiths by Karl Bartos, who explained that anyone trying to contact the band for collaboration would be told the studio telephone did not have a ringer, since during recording, the band did not like to hear any kind of noise pollution. Instead, callers were instructed to phone the studio precisely at a certain time, whereupon the phone would be answered by Ralf Hütter, despite never hearing the phone ring.
Good times, although I will never again be able to go to a concert without feeling slightly let down when I don’t get a pair of 3-D glasses after passing through the gates.
Kraftwerk on stage at Disney Hall. Photo from the LA Weekly