Around the World in 80 Decibels
Editor's note: Local experimental electronic celeb Otto von Schirach is currently destroying Europe on a tour with local infamous promoter Notorious Nastie. Here are some of their exploits in Berlin. To read more of their European tour diary, visit CrossFade, New Times' music blog, at BrowardPalmBeach.com.
It was a sunny afternoon as we drove into Berlin on our way to sound check at Berghain Kantine. Street after street, mile after mile, graffiti-plagued buildings lined the city and came together, reminding me of an old tattooed sailor. I stared out my window in the back seat of our Škoda automobile, shocked and amazed, as I gazed upon a cornucopia of freaks, punks, goths, IDM heads, and weirdos of all kinds packing the sidewalks.
Berlin loves Otto von Schirach. That's not surprising, as it's a town full of full-fledged maniacs and social deviants — a counterculture mecca. Proof of that love and admiration lined the streets in the form of posters for our show in town, depicting a caricature of our Laptop Conquistador of Bass, along with the date, venue, and support acts.
We arrived at the venue and were greeted by a few die-hard fans who helped us with our large bags. Then sound check, dinner, and merch setup were quickly checked off the to-do list. Sitting at the merch table, I wondered how a show on a Wednesday night with only Otto playing would draw in Berlin.
But as people steadily filtered in from the street, I realized it would not be the riotous, fan-fueled madness I had witnessed the night before in Erfurt, Germany. In the blink of an eye, the club was packed. But fans sporting Otto garb were the minority. Most in attendance came from that frightening world, the "industry."
Otto told me he now knew what it must have felt like in the '80s for avant-garde singer Klaus Nomi to play to the likes of David Bowie, Andy Warhol, and a sea of other music-industry faces. But for Otto in 2009, Bowie and Warhol were replaced by Modeselektor, DJ Ned, Kid 606, Jason Forrest, and Apparat.
Gone were the cocaine-sniffing, disco record label reps of the '80s, replaced, thankfully, by label heads from BPitch Control, Ipecac, Tigerbeat6, Cock Rock Disco, and software developers from Native Instruments — the company that produced Otto's sound library with Fixed Noise. Friends from the LittleBig booking agency, Stars and Heroes, Ralf from the Poodle performance artists, fantastic nobodies, and a hundred or so cans of mixed nuts round out the crowd as we took the stage.
Otto dropped songs like "Tea Bagging the Dead" and "Subatomic Disco Divas." For Otto, it was business as usual, as he's played Berlin a dozen-plus times in the past few years. But for me, it was quite the symbolic experience. Marching through Berlin were a superhero, Otto, a crazed Cuban-German; and sidekick Nastie, a fucked-up Cuban Jew, spawned from the Bermuda Triangle and representing South Florida with a laptop, an assortment of circuit-bent gadgetry, and a bag of merch. It was a comic book come to life. In Europe, we are truly on a mission, a mission of musical madness.
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