“Look, it’s not like I am trying to get free tickets…”
It was the afternoon of the show. I couldn’t believe I was having this conversation this late in the day.
“I already got tickets. All I need to do is get close to the stage for a few songs so I can snap some decent pics of Kraftwerk and help them promote their 3D tour.” I insisted.
Obligatory rewind… Before this phone call, it was my best week ever. In the same few days I got handed the keys to my dream job of blogging for the best DJ crew on the planet, my friend Blum won 2 tickets to see Kraftwerk’s live 3D tour by the sheer virtue of being the 10th caller.
Now, these two rights cannot possibly make a wrong, so I planned on taking advantage of the alignment of my stars by combining the two and making my first write up a live concert review on the legendary beat smiths from Germany.
“I’m sorry, but please understand that it is not my decision.” The Publicity Director of the venue went on.
“I relayed your press pass request on to Kraftwerk’s people and unfortunately, they declined. Apparently they only grant access to their own small group of people for publicity photos.”
Lesson one: Sometimes it doesn’t matter who you blog for or what name you drop, because sometimes they have “their own people.” To quote Flava Flav in the aptly titled Can’t Do Nuttin’ For Ya Man, “That’s the way the ball bounces, Gee!”
Still, it surprised me. The Beat Junkies’ and Kraftwerk’s fans are in the same sphere of influence, so you would think it would be in their best interest to get free publicity photos that capture the scope of the show shared online.
Regardless, for the sake of my lifetime of sheer respect for Kraftwerk, I choose to believe that it was not a decision made by actual members of the group. I’m sure I got a “no” from of one of their overpaid marketing yes-men instead.
“Hey, don’t worry about it man!” my boy JudY BlumE assured me.
“At least now we can let loose and you don’t have to be the nerdy, sober cameraman blocking everyone’s view.”
He was right, now I didn’t have to be the professional, I could just be myself, a fan of the music, and I could enjoy watching history unfold in front of me. After all, it’s not often I get a chance to see the living legends Kraftwerk performing live.
“Yeah, I know.” I sighed. “Except now there’s no chance of us hooking up with any 70 year old German Kraftwerk groupies.”
He snickered but I think he was a little disappointed about that. Blum (nicknamed Judy) is the kind of beer snob who has an unhealthy curiosity towards much older German women.
I added optimistically, “At least now I can see if maybe they will sign my 7″ Kraftwerk picture disc, and that would make it all worth it.”
So I hit the road to Blum’s apartment in the Twin Cities for a night of Kraftwerk, beer drinking and nightclubbing knowing the next day, as a bonus, I could hit up the local Minneapolis record stores for a little crate digging.
After a few craft beers with ironic names at Judy’s filthy bachelor pad, he hailed Uber, and we were off on the beginning of what would turn out to be a dramatic plot twist of an evening.
Who the hell is Kraftwerk?
“We’re going to see Kraftwerk tonight! Can you believe that!?” I proudly announced to the Uber cabby.
“Who?” he asked.
We were almost at our destination, and there’s no short answer to that question. How does one describe Kraftwerk in a few words and do it justice to one unfamiliar with their indelible mark?
So I switched tactics. “Well, do you like Hip Hop?”
“Yes, of course! I really like Old School Hip Hop!” he answered.
“Well, then if you’ve heard Afrika Bambaataa’s Planet Rock, you’ve basically heard Kraftwerk.”
“Who?” he asked.
“You can drop us off right here by this bar, thanks!” I answered.
I realize I sound like an elitist music-snob dick describing this conversation, but gimmie a friggen break already! You do not like old school Hip Hop if you don’t know Planet Rock. Sorry, but what it is.
“I’m not sure why you let that get to you man. Everyone I told about winning the tickets asked who Kraftwerk is.” Judy casually mentioned as we stepped inside the first bar of the evening.
“Unacceptable!” I glared. “This is why you need better friends.”
“Oh, you mean like you??” he sneered with his now punchable face.
Kraftwerk 3D from the Nosebleed Section
After a few Surly Furious brews we were finally at that happy medium state and we figured the opening band for Kraftwerk must be done playing by now, so we started walking to the venue. We discovered this was yet another false presumption about the night; there was no opening act so we were inexcusably late to the show. By the time we opened the door to the balcony seating we immediately got the librarian glare from the usher as the song Autobahn had already started. It felt like walking in late to a packed funeral as the congregation turns to see the wrongdoers in unison.
We were informed with a harsh whisper, “You will have to wait until the music stops before seating yourselves.”
Apparently we were way up in the upper balcony. Upon the cue of applause we did our side-step shuffle of shame down the cow path of rudely interrupted fans, now forced to stand to let us get to our seats. We put on our 3D glasses and slumped into our seats high above the stage.
From there I labored to get a few good shots with my phone knowing cell phone photos would likely never be good enough to use in this blog post.
The photos turned out ok, but I doubted there was a blogworthy story to tell at this point. There was nothing to really absorb about the performance from our distant vantage point.
That’s not to sell the experience short, because it was cool as hell to see Kraftwerk live surrounded by a throw-back 80s style 3D video show, but from our location we knew they were down there pressing knobs and levers, but we couldn’t really make out any details whatsoever. Still, we were both giddy with excitement for simply being present in front of our electronic gods.
One by one they advanced through all their quintessential hits. We watched in silence as the purposefully archaic 3D graphics danced in space above the four men as the synth-heavy bass and glitchy drums looped on. Despite the church-like atmosphere and subdued crowd, it was nice and loud so the crunchy drum loops and the low end pleasantly shook the building.
A mere 45 minutes after we arrived they left the stage, but it was just encore bait. After the first standing ovation the curtains drew again revealing not the members of Kraftwerk, but instead their animatronic mannequins.
“We Are The Robots” came through the speakers as their plastic dummies jerked and rotated from side to side. As much as I love that song I was frankly pretty bored of that part of the show by about the 2 minute mark and it went on well beyond that.
Nearing the end of the show the quartet got to my favorite tracks from Electric Cafe and Radioactivity. By this point the 3D show was getting to be a little, I dunno, quaint? I get that it’s supposed to be throwback 80s effects, but after the 5th time of seeing this green line go in front of that green line the novelty was starting to wear off.
Now I’m not trying to detract from the Kraftwerk’s incomparable legacy, but it was at this point I realized I was probably watching the last time this group of now 60-70 year old men will ever tour again. It’s just that they are well past the pinnacle of their electronic music careers and sadly, every day from now on we are even more likely to hear “Who?” when you mention the name Kraftwerk.
As the last of the 4 members of Kraftwerk waved goodbye to the cheering audience and exited stage right I realized none of that mattered at this moment. It was time to make moves.
Time to Get My Picture Disc Autographed
“Ok, you can try!” Blum said realistically.
I found a sympathetic rent-a-cop. I flashed him my 7″ picture disc and silver sharpie I had crammed into my coat pocket all night, and he quietly informed me how to get as close as the law would allow to the door separating “us” from “them.” At that door there was one lone security guard, seemingly equally empathetic to my quest to get the names of Kraftwerk on my record.
Fan tip: All you gotta do is show a 7″ picture disc and a sharpie to a security guard and give them the “But I came all the way for this!” speech and sometimes the effort actually pays off.
Yet, (no spoiler alert necessary) as you can see by the pic, it never happened. The guard at the door told me to hold on and he went inside and disappeared completely. A moment later, four large German security dudes came out wearing all black.
In my most pathetic voice possible I conjured up a lie that should have worked.
“Hi guys, I just drove all the way up from Chicago to get my heroes signature on this picture disc! It would mean EVERYTHING to me if I could get their autographs!”
They looked at me like I’m some jackass American tourist and laughed while one of them said
“What’s that, a really big CD?”
They snickered and immediately formed a no-fucking-way defensive line in front of the door.
“Look, I don’t have to see them if they don’t accept visits from fans. So maybe one of you can take it to them and ask them to sign it?”
They smugly put me into place with a rejection that seemingly made them feel better about the present state of their kraut eating roadie lives. “Kraftwerk does not just sign autographs for anyone. We can’t bother them.”
It was my turn to joke… “Ok, this picture discs doesn’t sound that good so I could care less about ink on the grooves. Maybe you could just go in there and sign it yourself with their names so then I can at least brag about getting signatures at a Kraftwerk show on Reddit. I want to see how long it will take for someone to call me out on having forged signatures on a record.”
They didn’t laugh, and it’s not because they didn’t understand I was being facetious. It’s in their job description to disappoint Kraftwerk fans, and now they were clearly bored of it. They said something in German, chuckled amongst themselves and basically told me to get lost.
I looked at Judy with a “fuck that shit” look, and got the “Well at least you tried.” consolation.
“Eh, forget about it. The night is young, let’s go.”
Now don’t tell him that; but Blum was right again. Even though I got no decent photos and didn’t score an autograph after wasting all that time debating with the blonde Hanzels, it was time to let off some steam.
“No, not Rape Dwarf, Rapedoor!”
It was at this point that the night threw us a wicked curve ball. After a little debate and reading the online reviews we worked our way over to a special little bar in the area called the Kitty Cat Klub. Blum and I both love punk music so this was our only sensible destination.
The moment we walked through the door we instantly knew we were going to find some compelling culture. Once you step over the threshold you are basically tripping balls. I don’t know if they pump airborne drugs thru the ventilation system or if it’s the deer head with Christmas lights on it or if it’s the drug induced honesty of everyone around us, but this place was a fucking trip.
This is the kind of place where women come up to you at the bar and ask you…
“Excuse me, but would you be offended if I asked you if you ever wear assless chaps?”
Imagine how hard it is not to laugh at that question and somehow check it at a restrained grin when you realize she isn’t even smiling. At the Kitty Cat Klub, this is a dead fucking serious question, so be ready for it. I didn’t really know how to answer the question, and while it was entertaining we opted to carefully back away from that conversation towards even deeper insanity.
“What’s the name of the band that’s playing tonight!?” I yelled over the loud music to the bartender.
“Rape d—ph” he yells back.
“Rape Dwarf??” I couldn’t believe my ears. “Hey Judy, we gotta stick around for Rape Dwarf, I have a good feeling about that!”
He corrected me, “No, Rapedoor!”
“Oh! Well good!” I smiled “Maybe the name Rape Dwarf is still available when I start my punk band.”
We made our way over to the stage area to find an intimate but extremely lively crowd, apparently consisting of quite a few Rapedoor groupies. All of them were fired up to see the headliner.
Rapedoor came on and before they even warmed up I could tell they were on some serious shit. I don’t know what kind of drugs they had in them but they were easily ten levels above me.
Before I go any further about Rapedoor, allow me just humbly add, anything I write about this band’s live performance from here onward will not do it justice. This was easily one of the best metal\punk shows I have ever experienced. These guys are true professionals in the entertainment business and I was completely blown out of the water over the amount of ass kicking they did.
They ride a gradient between punk, metal and hard rock, so you can’t exactly put them into a neat little box. According to their own-damn-selves, the genre they play is “bananas” and that’s nail on head.
Rapedoor is a 3 man and 1 woman clusterfuck of glorious noise generated by Ron .Q. Rudlong (guitar and vocals) Nicole Rode (drums and vocals) Odi “Black Jesus” (bass and vocals) and Jake Sweet (drums).
By the time they started the first song I was already at that peak high that only goes downhill if you start drinking too much more alcohol, so to maintain that as long as possible I slowly nursed the Day Tripper beer in my hand.
“This shit is fucking great man!” I yelled at Blum.
He didn’t hear me but he nodded anyways because that’s what you do when it’s this fucking loud and crazy.
It was early in the set and the band was already spot on. The impressive female drummer on the first song punished the drum kit. Like all Beat Junkies junkies, I couldn’t help but zone in on the rhythm she laid down. Her timing, presence, and impromptu fills were impeccable.
“Oh my GOD that chick is an incredible drummer!” I yelled at Blum.
Soon after the first song was over, she got up and switched places with the guy who I thought was the singer. In her new role as singer she conveniently lost her white fuzzy overcoat and rocked the rest of the night wearing just a bra and panties. Meanwhile, behind the facade of this innocent looking bookstore, the singer, who was actually the drummer picked up where she left off and blew my mind with the kind of intense ferocity that only a metal drummer with a bad childhood could have.
Midway through her first song as singer, she somehow clawed her way to the top of a speaker taller than she was, and proceeded to do a flying karate kick jump that would have put Ralph Macchio circa Karate Kid 2 to shame. The crowd was absolutely eating it up; everyone was going bananas watching her feed off the energy in the room. But that was nothing, she was just getting started.
On the next song, I shit you not, right in the middle of the refrain she leaped off the stage on top of some dude in the audience. She tackled the guy to the floor and proceeded to finish the refrain as she rolled around on the dirty floor with this stranger like pigs in the mud without losing a beat. For what seemed like an eternity she rolled herself and her microphone cord back and forth with him while scream-singing without getting breathless until she finally jumped up and stepped on him essentially using him as a human stair to get back on the stage. The guy was not pissed at all. On the contrary, it looked like he died and went to heaven.
From then on she owned the crowd. As the guitarists and bass players soaked up that energy I witnessed them transform into a synchronized hive mind of unsurpassable punk. At this point the energy level and raw power and polished rock presence of the band was in perfect phase. They had somehow turned the Kitty Cat Klub into a dissonant utopia.
From this point onward the details of the night are hazy. I vaguely remember being in awe and that much I am sure of. I definitely remember the singer handing me the microphone at one point and yelling at me to…
So I sang. I think it was more of a bellowing drunken-rage scream type of a singing but I’m almost positive I was on key and sang something appropriate, even though Blum looked at me half way thru my performance and yelled…
“DUDE!!! STOP NOW!!!”
So I dropped the mic on the stage only to turn around and see the singer had now somehow scaled the back wall behind the crowd. When I wasn’t looking she must have done that Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon move springing, not from treetop to treetop, but from banging head to banging head.
Damn. What a fateful change of events. This local band I’ve never heard of called Rapedoor managed to somehow turn my lemons into lemonade and eventually into urine. It was strange but genuine serendipity; because now I had my blog post given back to me. Sure, it is some kind of non-linear mind fuck version of a story, but it was all so real. I knew at that point for that reason alone it had to be told. I picked this moment to tell Blum I couldn’t ever remember having such a great time watching ANY live music.
Then, just like that, feedback turned to into silence. It was over. I had officially forgotten about Kraftwerk, the reason I came, and concentrated instead on my new found favorite local band Rapedoor. As they casually tore down their instruments I groupied up to them and I asked them where I could buy their records.
“We don’t have any records yet, they are a little too expensive to produce, but we do have CDs.” The guitarist told me.
I get it, they are in fact way harder to fund than CDs, and that was good enough for me. The singer Nichole came over and joked with me…
“Hey thanks for singing. That was pretty good!” she smiled.
“Nice! Did you hear that Judy?!”
I was still a bit awestruck so I groveled, “You guys fucking rock so much! You have no idea how much you made my night. Can I please get my picture with you for my blog post?”
“Yeah, no problem!”
She gathered her bandmates and we posed for the shot as an extremely drunk Blum snapped a few blurry pics.
She disappeared and reappeared with 2 of their CDs for me and handed them over to me.
“You can have these, I hope you like them!” she added. “Please send me a link when you’re done with the write up!”
As corny as this is gonna sound, this is why I love this gig. I genuinely believe it’s my honor to write about real music like this. I don’t care what genre of music it is, when a band is capable of that kind of life enriching stress reduction, even if it’s just for one memorable night, that’s what it’s all about.
TLDR: If you get a chance to see Kraftwerk’s 2015 live 3D show, I recommend you get there early and get seats as close as possible. They are true music legends in every sense of the word, so don’t bother trying to get their autograph, even if you bring a picture disc, because they don’t do that.
Above all, if you ever get a chance to see Rapedoor, drop what you are doing and go. They will leave your ears ringing in a therapeutic way with the unique mixed emotion of being both pleasantly appalled and hungry for more. They typically play small venues in the Twin Cities, they put on a high energy crowd participatory performance, and press passes are never necessary.