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

New York City Club Scene 1984

In the video above you see the emerging dance scene in NYC. If you ever listen New Order’s Confusion and thought wow this is well produced and really works well in a nightclub now you can know the reason. Producer Arthur Baker tells how he tested the track in club specifically to sound good there. At that time most music heard even in clubs had melody and lyrics. At 13:58 in the reporter amazingly has an epic thought and asks Baker if he thinks if eventually dance music will just be rhythmic without vocals or melody. He knew the future!

“The other question is what would be the next? Because things are becoming more and more rhythmic. Do you think we will end up with just complete rhythm records with no melody whatsoever?”

For more info: wikipedia.org/wiki/Confusion_(New_Order_song)

Depeche Mode Live on Letterman

So if you follow me on Facebook or Twitter you know that a good friend of mine got me a ticket to see Depeche Mode last night at the Ed Sullivan Theater. The theater which David Letterman uses as his set only seats 461 people so no matter your close to the stage. The show was set for 8PM with doors opening at 7. I got there about 6:15 and to my surprise there was only about 30 people on line. One thing I noticed was that the crowd was definitely older. I didn’t see anyone under the age of 25 and most people were upper 30s/40s. Everyone was stressed boringly in black. There were no freaks and only a few people were even wearing DM shirts. I asked a few people online what they wrote in as their answer to the “What does Delta Machine” mean contest question. To my surprise all the answers were random and different. I knew right then my Vince Clarke theory was probably wrong. The stage was lit beautifully and was full of keyboard rigs. There was a quick announcement letting us know it was ok to use our phones to tweet and update facebook. They also stated we would be filmed and could watch ourselves later that night. Then just like that Dave, Martin, Fletch a drummer and additional keyboardist walk on stage right in front of me. The songs they played honestly left me a little bewildered. All of them were upbeat and rockish. There was nothing slow, and nothing with Martin as the lead vocal. I heard Barrel of a Gun, Enjoy the Silence, Personal Jesus, Walking in My Shoes, Heaven and I believe three other new songs. One of the new songs was very good. I can tell it will be great on the album. Walking in My Shoes was the old song that had my eyes watering a little. Martin changed his guitar every song which I guess shows some sort of fetish for the instrument. Of course I would have rather enjoying them swapping synths. On that note there was an Access Virus and some controller/composer type of keyboards on stage. No real analog or modular stuff. You could say it doesn’t matter but I would have enjoyed it. I was thrilled to be there seeing old friends; people who still bring me much joy. You can watch the complete broadcast here: cbs.com/shows/liveonletterman/artist/209798/depeche-mode

Our next guests are an influential band and their career spans three decades and still going strong selling over one hundred million albums. Ladies and gentleman welcome back Depeche Mode.” – David Letterman

For more info: depechemode.com

Latin Rascals 1984

I have a huge box of cassettes I recorded off NYC radio in the 1980s. Hands down some of the most cherished are the Latin Rascals mixes. They took hundreds of tracks and mixed them in such an amazing musical and technical way. I used to play basketball and swim to this stuff everyday after high school. Even though it may not be apparent my own music is heavily influenced by these tracks. Hearing this is just a reminder I have to somehow convert my cassettes to digital ASAP. This stuff is the soundtrack of classic NY.

“As far as trends in DJ Culture go, New York always was light years ahead of anyone else on the planet. This mix changed everything – Latin Rascals – 1984 – I remember hearing it and that was it for me, it’s never been topped actually.” – Frankie Bones

“Albert Cabrera and Tony Moran (collectively known as the Latin Rascals) got their start as movers and shakers on the budding early’80s New York City club scene, hosting an influential continuous-mix show on local danceradio. The duo went on to become the most in-demand editing and remixing teams in the record business. The Latin Rascals also masterminded the Latin freestyle dance scene, including work for TKA , Sa-Fire and The Cover Girls…among others. The Latin Rascals were also artists for two albums released on Polydor records.” – rascaltunes.com

For more info: discogs.com/artist/Latin+Rascals,+The

via Frankie Bones

Control Voltage Faire

There is a modular synth show at the South Street Seaport (210 Front Street, New York) in NYC tomorrow today! It’s called the Control Voltage Faire and it runs from 3-8PM. If that’s not enough fun for you there is a Buchla Concert that follows from 8-10PM.

“Since most modular synthesizers are constructed at the cottage industry level and distributed online, it is difficult for users to interact with these instruments. Control Voltage Faire will be the first opportunity on the East Coast for amateur enthusiasts, professionals and the general public to experience analog synthesizer modules produced by DIY manufacturers and crafters. Like a small-scale NAMM show with the independent spirit of the Maker Faire, the Control Voltage Faire will zone in on the origins and future of modular synthesis. Presenters at the Control Voltage Faire include: Control, 4ms, Harvestman, Knas, Main Drag Modular, Make Noise, Malekko, SnazzyFX, MeMe Antenna and Pittsburgh Modular. And more to be announced! The evening will feature Buchla 200 Recital, presenting three composers exploring this powerful instrument: Alessandro Cortini, Carlos Giffoni, and Mark Verbos. To end the event, a late show featuring Xeno & Oaklander and Loud Objects will perform on all-analog instruments. The concert will take place in Lower Manhattan’s @SEAPORT!, located at 210 Front Street.” – facebook.com/events…

For more info: indiegogo.com/sourceofuncertainty and facebook.com/events/352178294830987

Bleecker Bob’s Closing Down

Another absolutely legendary store is closing down in NYC. I’ve been to Bleeker Bobs countless times. A good chunk of my record collection comes from Bobs. I supposed it’s inevitable but the news saddens me. After my parents divorce my mother had a new boyfriend (now her husband Doug). To get my brother and I out of their hair on the weekends they would give us $100 to go record shopping. There were about 10 stores on our village walk including St. Marks Sounds, Vinylmania, Discorama, Rebel Rebel, Tower, Second Coming and Bleeker Bobs. As the 80s ended and I went to college, EBM/Industrial records started to dry up and I started making my own music. These factors ended my vinyl shopping spree. I think fondly of spending time with my brother and finding the music gems which I still cherish today. Be sure to read the article in The Stool Pigeon (link) for Bob’s history.

“Landmark Greenwich Village record shop Bleecker Bob’s is closing down after more than 40 years in business, and the only person in new york who doesn’t know is Bleecker Bob… A long CD rack, installed in the nineties, runs down one side of the store. It looks out of place now, like an arcade game in a library. Art deco clocks hang at the top of the walls in rows. Many of them have stopped. And there are crates and crates and crates of hand-labelled, meticulously catalogued records. But forget about the records for a minute….” – The Stool Pigeon

via The Stool Pigeon and Kevin W Fitzgerald

photo credits: bytegirl24, J Blough and nyperson

Tekserve’s Future of Music V

I will be doing a live presentation of iPad music Apps on February 3, 2011 at the famous NYC Apple repair shop Tekserve. My co-host will be Peter Kirn of Create Digital Music. I already have my Apps and plan and I think if you can make it you will have a lot of fun. Tekserve has a great new A/V room and the store will be offering special discounts during the evening. 8:30 – 11:00 p.m and refreshments will be served.

“Tekserve’s “ Future of Music V ,” coming up on February 3 at their 23rd Street store, will be a night of live performance and panel discussion featuring artists using Apple’s iPad in performance and production. Oliver Chesler aka The Horrorist Co-presented with createdigitalmusic.com , Future of Music V will feature electronic and visual artists performing some of their latest works using iPad and a discussion, moderated by music journalist Harry Allen.” – vstinstrument.com

Sign up and more info: tekserve.com

photo credits: tantek and nickjeffery

Cruel Summer

We are having a major heat wave in New York right now. It’s been over 95F and humid for two days and the weather report says nothing is going to change for at least a week. Considering it’s only Tuesday we are in for some long hotness. The one song that really triggers my mind into summer mode is Cruel Summer by Bananarama. Something about the melody and singing just feels like summer.

“Hot summer streets and the pavements are burning I sit around. Trying to smile but the air is so heavy and dry. Strange voices are sayin’. What did they say. Things I can’t understand. It’s too close for comfort this heat has got right out of hand.” – Bananarama

What’s your favorite summer song?

photo credit: caruba