Front 242 at Irving Plaza

Front 242 Irving Plaza

Front 242 Irving Plaza 2

Front 242 Irving Plaza 3

Front 242 Irving Plaza 4

Last night I went to see Front 242 at Irving Plaza in Manhattan. The last time I saw them live was May 6, 1989 at the Palladium. Considering that they are one of my favorite bands of all time it’s strange to me that I have only seen them twice… 25 years apart. When I saw them two and a half decades years ago they were young, skinny, all in black and extremely aggressive. They used Emulator Samplers, analog delay pedals and electronic drums. At that point every single song that they had released I adored with a passion. After Tyranny for You their sound changed and techno took over the landscape. I still worshiped what they had done but wasn’t very interested in their “newer” material. Even though I shunned the new stuff I in fact have probably listened to Front 242′s early music every week of my life since I first heard them.

The love affair started in 1987. At that point in my life I was the worlds biggest Depeche Mode fan. Black Celebration was on heavy rotation. I was in a car with my then girlfriend and she put in a cassette. It was Official Version. As she drove something happened to me. I couldn’t really process what I was hearing but I was being overtaken. I clenched my teeth and squeezed my fists. I never heard anything so dark, mysterious and complicated. I knew what I was hearing was important. Right away I went to record stores trying to finding a 242 release here or there. I remember walking on St. Mark’s Place and seeing a guy wearing the now iconic helicopter 242 shirt. I was fairly shy as a teenager but I went right up to the guy and stopped him. I said, “Oh my god you know about this too!”. Front by Front was released soon after. Reviewing all their work I saw their music vision grow from Geography into this military music machine. I started making my own music and in doing so realized the incredible amount of work that went into each 242 song. I was obsessed with Jean Luc’s mannerisms. They were pure electronic power. They were also my very own. My parents and “normal” friends couldn’t even come close to understanding Front 242 and that was exactly perfect.

I saw a few video clips of late 90s and early 2000s 242 live shows. I saw them gain a few pounds and wearing dayglow yellow. Richard 23 lost the mohawk, sunglasses and even ran for political office in Belgium. I craved an new “old style” 242 track badly. I probably had a dream or two where I even heard one. This concert at Irving Plaza wasn’t put together by a concert promoter in the traditional sense. A small group of DJs who have been keeping the EBM candle alive through the dark years got together to make this happen. They paid for this themselves. That fact and because the band has giving me a large part of the soundtrack for my life made me buy a ticket. So off to Irving Plaza I went. I honestly was expecting to be very disappointed.

I got a lump in my throat when I saw the sign over the Plaza’s entrance. “Front 242 Live”. I did the math. 25 years since I have seen them. You could almost see the Palladium (now a Trader Joe’s) from Irving Plaza. The line was around the block. I joked to my friends that they were asking for ID if people wanted to drink because clearly there was no one under the age of 30 on the line.

Cocksure was the opening band. I went to the Wax Trax popup store in Chicago this summer. Cocksure performed and really blew me away. They had that classic 80s Wax Trax sound. I told people leading up to this that they were going to possibly blow 242 away. They didn’t. Being an opening band is painful. On one hand who would say no to a trip to NYC and open for 242? On the other hand you get less than half the sound of the main act and no one is really there to see you. I still think they are a band to watch but just not last night.

The DJs who brought 242 to NYC played some music. I couldn’t see the DJ booth so I’m not sure who was on but it was a good mix of new and old stuff and a low enough volume that the audience could talk and make some predictions about what they were a few minutes away from seeing. Then a few seconds of quiet, cheers and Patrick Codenys took the stage. He played a minute of beatless music and then Jean Luc DeMeyer and Richard23 ran on stage. What happened next thrilled me. It was Front 242. Electronic Body Music. The two men moved in action just like they did 25 years ago. Massive strobes flashed shadows behind them making them look like giants. It was very clear they were excited to be there and we were in for something really good. Every classic they played blew me away. Surprisingly the newer songs I didn’t know were also great live. The highlight was No Shuffle. As the song played I felt like I was dreaming about how they would do the song far in the future. They crossed each other back and forth on stage without looking at each other. They each took turns as front man. Richard23 traded his small belt held analog delay pedal for some almost psychedelic sounding rack of lush delays. Funk Gaddafi was an experience like watching the “Sprach Zarathustra” time warp scene in Kubrick’s 2001. A funny moment happened during the song Welcome to Paradise when a young person said, “They are singing the samples how cool!”.

I had a great time. Was it as good as seeing them the first time? Of course not. In 89 they were pure, angry and the technology was raw. It was also something completely new. Even the New York Times covered them back then. But one thing is clear in both shows. In 1989 they had something to prove and they did so. In 2014 they had something to prove again and they did it again. They are still Front 242 and I am still in love.

“FRONT 242 < > !!First NYC concert in almost 10 YEARS!!” – Krieg Koncerts/MediaDent/Defcon/Qxts/Nobody?/Dr. Avi/EMP

For more info: front242.com

Take One

Front 242 Take One

You can bet I am going to try and buy one of these new red 7-inch Front 242 records when they play live in NYC this September. What I want even more is for the band to go back to their old sound. They know people love the older material. They can pick up where they left off after Tyranny for you. Ok guys? Please?

“Pressed on red vinyl and limited to 500 copies, the 7-inch is the second release from the relaunched Wax Trax! and the first Front 242 release on the label in 25 years. It will be sold only at Front 242?s three U.S. dates — in Tampa, New York and Chicago — this September, according to the label. The single will include a remastered recording of “Take One” performed on Sept. 28, 1984, at Medusas’s in Chicago — the group’s debut American performance — and a version of “Im Rhythmus Bleiben” recorded at the Wax Trax! Retrospectacle concert in 2011.” – slicingupeyeballs.com

For more info: waxtraxchicago.bigcartel.com

Flame Tame & DPO

Put this video on at about 6:14 in and it sounds like Front 242 during their Front by Front era. It reminds me of the basslines in Until Death or Welcome to Paradise. Sounds so wicked as he pitches the Make Noise DPO sequence using the Flame Tame Machine.

“The DPO is a voltage controlled oscillator designed for generating complex waveforms and implementing FM synthesis within the analog domain. Expanding on the classic arrangement of Primary and Modulator Oscillators, the DPO has both of the VCOs operable as complex signal sources. It is in essence a Dual Primary Oscillator.” – ctrl-mod.com

For more info: makenoisemusic.com and flame.fortschritt-musik.de

Dj Magal

My friend David Merlino who is one half of the famous Pet Duo techno act sent me some information and a wicked cool Cold Wave/EBM DJ Set from DJ Magal.

“This mix is from a very old school DJ from Brazil. Magal was the one who first dropped Ministry, Front 242, Clock DVA @ Hoellisch, a very underground club in downtown Sao Paolo, where i first heard many EBM bands…responsible for my everlasting electronic addiction… Nowadays he is resident at Madame Satã, another underground club but with very dark vibe…think they had A Split Second a few months ago there.” – David Merlino

For more info: djmagal.com.br

198X on eBay

Here are two nicely collectible pieces on eBay right now. A Front 242 flag used on stage during the Official Version tour and a Depeche Mode Music for the Masses T-Shirt (I own that shirt and wore it to death). I don’t have a wall for the flag and I won’t wear white and bright orange so unless I win the lottery and build a new wave/EBM museum collecting the photos of this stuff will be enough for today. Still… I almost clicked bid on both! Official Version and Music for the Masses are both in my top 10 albums of all time.

“Rare and hard to find backdrop / flag used on stage during the Official Version tour 1987. Size 138 x 94 cm (55″ x 37,5″ inches) These flags was sold through Front 242′s fanclub after the tour. Only a few copies made. Comes in a black Official Version plastic sleeve. (The live pictures are taken from the Gothenburg / Sweden concert in 1987.)”

For more info: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1988

Memorabilia

I have large boxes of music memorabilia going back to the early 80s. I have all the backstage passes and anything else I could grab from my time on the Depeche Mode 101 tour. Boxes of obscur fanzines featuring anything I could find on EBM acts. Huge boxes of flyers some going back as far as the “IT” club (above the World on Houston St…. remember that?). It’s impossible to get it all into digital form in one sitting so as I slowly get to it I will share it with you here.

“A souvenir (from French, for a remembrance or memory), memento, keepsake or token of remembrance is an object a person acquires for the memories the owner associates with it.” – Wikipedia

See the full photo set: flickr.com/thingstocomerecords/7215…

Nothing But Noise

Imagine waking up, looking in your email box and finding an email from a member of Front 242. That happened to me today. DanielB reached out to me to let me know about his project Nothing But Noise. His email comes at an interesting time. Last weekend I ended up on Youtube watching November Növelet’s Misanthropy video. I realized for the first time that like any genre there is great and average. Misanthropy just blows me away so I started looking for more in the genre. I found more I liked and this morning after reading the email clicked to the Nothing But Noise website. I have to admit I was a little worried. I knew I had to honor one of my musical teachers by posting about his music on the blog. But what if I didn’t like it? I did a quick scan of the page. Images of silhouetted men coordinated in front of machines. They got this part correct. Image does matter and usually it’s a tip off if the music is going to be anything special. Before I hit play on the videos I noticed at the bottom of the page some gear. I found Livewire, Moog, MakeNoise and analog sequencers. I started to get excited. You see in the hands of these Belgians 80s Emulators or real analog works. Its the VSTs and such I’m not so sure they know what to do with. So I hit play and with great relief I am very pleased. It’s a serious effort. Yes I am starstruck but I never lie about music. This is good and as you can see by another recent 242 related post (link) I’m glad to be hearing from my old friends again.

“Nothing But Noise is the new musical project from Front 242′s mastermind Daniel Bressanutti, Dirk Bergen (ex Front 242) and Erwin Jadot. Upcoming is the project’s first album “Not Bleeding Red” (expected to be released… April 12, 2012).” – side-line.com

For more info: nothingbutnoise.be

Front 242 Helmet

After my recent post Front 242 Collector I was contacted by a person named Martin who collects 242 himself. He sent me some photos and history of a very unique and collectable piece: one of Jean Luc Meyer’s helmets. He paid about about 150 Euro for it but it turns out the helmet itself even without the 242 connection was originally expensive…

“A few months ago i have sent an e-mail to front 242 collector. But i didn´t get an answer. I think the blog isn´t updated anymore. I regret that there is no real actual f242 forum. I send you a photograph of an item i bought many, many years ago and an old article from a japanese music magazine to compare. Take a look at Jean-Luc. Please let me know what you think. I did a lot of research about this helmet (it is the version whithout the welding shield), i am sure it´s an original. And the story from the guy who sold me this helmet is plausible.

I have bought it from a former dj, who worked in an underground club in the eigthies. I used to go there from when i was 16 or 17 (at that time Depeche Mode released “Black Celebration”). The dj (i don´t remember his name) got a backstage pass for the Depeche Mode concert in Essen/Germany (Music For The Masses Tour), Front 242 were the opener (i was there, brilliant concert). After the gig he had the possibility to talk to Jean-Luc. Jean-Luc gave him some signed posters, as far as i remember a signed flag, and as a highlight his helmet.

You can see the helmets when you watch the beginning of the Front 242 Tape One Video (Paris 1987). While Jean-Luc on stage only used the basic version of this helmet Patrick and Richard wore the version with the welding shield. The helmet was originally manufactured by Racal Amplivox. Today you can buy it for example here: http://www.airwareamerica.com/3mhepaairstream.aspx, (list price: 968,77 $), you see, even today the helmet is to expensive to create a fake.

I have seen a lot of photos from the “f242 museum/exhibition” in Brussels to the band´s 30s anniversary, they showed a lot of stuff, even old clothes, but i haven´t seen any other of their helmets.” Martin

To read the newspaper clipping above in detail: front242articles.blogspot.com