Live Review

Das Ich Live, Washington, D.C.

By Klaatu

They actually let me out of the asylum on leave last night. Or maybe I overpowered the warden. I forget, since I am well-known to be hallucinating and delusional, so I don't bother to remember much since it's all bogus anyway, or so my therapists advise me.

Having escaped custody, or being let out (whatever), I wound my way to suburban Wheaton Maryland, long fabled as possibly the most suburban suburbia center one could imagine. Once a small town, Wheaton was engulfed by creeping conformity in the early 60s and is only now beginning to regain any individualistic character. It's almost got something like class, which for Wheaton is a first. Part of the acquisition of class is the restaurant district bordered by Georgia Avenue, University Boulevard, Price Avenue and Fern Street. Right in the middle is Elkin Street, and right in the middle of the block is Phantasmagoria.

A record store by day and nightclub by night, even though I generally loathe Wheaton I can give a very positive review of Phantasmagoria since it really reminds me of my nights downtown as an alley punk in the era of DC Space and the old Niteclub 9:30. It's got that "we're not even going to try to be pretentious 'cause it just won't work" ambience, a sort of gritty authenticity and very urban flavor. They've got stacks and stacks of vinyl - if you wanted to find anything really old and hard-to-find I would highly recommend it. The place is a complete antidote against Wheaton's semi-successful attempts to turn itself into "the new Adams-Morgan," providing a perfect breeding ground and assembly point for those of us who lurk mostly unseen beneath the rock of society. Close to Metrorail and busses, surrounded by all sorts of nifty little ethnic eateries and practically next-door to a nice and underused pool hall, there's even lots of parking nearby.

I paid the $15.00 entry fee and stepped into a dimly-lit and black painted swirling gloom of faux-fog and Goths. I have been moaning quite a lot in recent days about Gothic Cleaning in the DC area, but either I have been overstating the case, or Goths had come from a long long ways to catch this show. I did recognize a lot of Goths from the downtown scene, mostly the folks from Catacomb DC. But there were a lot of faces I didn't recognize from the downtown scene, which to me implies that there are a lot of local Goths I just haven't seen around. There might have been 100 to 120 people there.

I missed the first band or two, and did catch In Strictest Confidence and Das Ich.

I used to be pretty unimpressed by German techno/darkwave, but now I sort of like it. I definitely liked Das Ich. In Strictest Confidence wasn't bad by any means, it's just that their first few songs just weren't really catchy and were sort of weak, but their last few songs had a nice set of beats to them. It was funny, I went into the smoking-lounge to have a cigarette and wound up commenting on them to someone in there. I said something like "not bad but I expect it will only be a year before I hear their music in an elevator or in the dentist's office." The guy said, with a German accent, "Ja, we have a thousand bands like them in Europe, it's all presets, lots of people are building on Skinny Puppy's work," or something to that effect. I said something to the effect of "Well, it's difficult to be original, all of these giants have come before, it's hard to outdo Mozart, Beethoven or Sibelius," and this guy says something like, "Ja, I like the classics, they are an influence." Turns out he was one of the keyboard players for Das Ich.

Das Ich started out strong and only got better, although some of their tunes were much more infectiously "danceable" than others. They even got me to dance, which is kind of rare, me being an old geezer. But what I thought were the best points of Das Ich boiled down to two things: they had a live drummer, who was almost my age I think - a German longhair guy who would look right at home at any hippie gathering. His drumming was superlative, he did not once miss a beat - I didn't know one person could get that sort of rhythmic complexity out of a standard drum setup. Secondly, the keyboard player I'd spoken with earlier did in fact show a _lot_ of classical influence, especially as he layered on the sounds behind and next to the steadier lead and bass rhythms provided by the other keyboardist - there were subdued occasional elements within the tunes that were almost baroque. However the most entertaining element may have been the lead singer, who had a premiere industrial-techno snarly-voice and who pranced and bounced around the stage like some sort of demented toad-painted imp while shaking his short mane of elflocks at the crowd to everyone's enthusiastic approval. After one set, they took a short break of about a minute, after which they returned to the stage to finish off the show with some of their most danceable numbers.

I think I would recommend to anyone that they should buy a CD from Das Ich, and maybe if it's to their taste they would want to also consider buying a CD from In Strictest Confidence. But if you ever have the opportunity, I will definitely recommend that you see Das Ich give a live show; you won't be disappointed.