I actually went to a concert on Friday! I went to see Apoptygma Berzerk at Das Bunker. Apoptygma Berzerk (which is really one Norwegian guy, Stephen Groth) has been one of my favorite goth/industrial artists for years…and it just took me a while to get to a live show. This time, even though I had to go on my own, I was determined to make the show. So I left my husband at home with our baby, dragged my PVC dress out of storage, and traipsed down to the club.
I’ve only been to Das Bunker for a few special events over the years – VNV Nation and Das Bootie are the two I remember. Das Bunker is held at Jewel’s Catch One, a two-and-a-half story club that is a warren of rooms, stairs, corners, and one large ballroom for the main shows. You enter by going up a flight of stairs…and then either going into the ballroom, to the bar, or down a narrow stairway to the lower level rooms. There’s lounges and seats in random places, including in the space that is a coffeehouse by day, but is the powernoize room by night. There’s a retro room, which plays either second wave industrial, or the sort of third wave EBM that I danced to a decade ago in the Mercury in Seattle. And every time I’ve been there, the place has been almost crowded: the three rooms draw goths from every genre and sub-genre, from rivethead to Romantigoth.
Friday night, there were an abundance of the cybergoths and Gravers. Gravers are the goth ravers, who started appearing in the late nineties, and have been drifting around ever since. They have colorful falls and extensions, and include more colors – neon green, mostly – along with their black. But few of them drifted, like I did, down to the retro room. After getting in, and realizing that the show was far from starting, I opted to stay downstairs in the retro area instead of listening to the stompy techno remixes (somewhere just on the trance side of EBM) that were being played in the ballroom. So I stayed downstairs, sipping a club soda and watching Blade Runner, which was being projected onto one wall. Points to whoever decided on that DVD – it fit extremely well with the Front 242 and Nitzer Ebb.
I wandered upstairs again after half an hour or so, and took a place near the stage for when the show started. Even alone, I feel comfortable in a goth club. This is a subculture I’ve identified with for a dozen years or so, and I know I share the same cultural touchstones and references as most of the other people around me. And I like being someplace where I will know and enjoy the music that is being played. So I stood there, half-dancing alone at times (there was a remix of Mesh’s “Petrified” on at one point, and I love Mesh), thinking about how it is that I’m perfectly at home in a club that looks like a scene out of a dystopian movie, and watching as the occasional band member or roadie fixed something on stage. And finally, the DJ shut down, and the sampler started up, and the stage filled with artificial smoke, and I recognized “Eclipse”.
One of the reasons Apoptygma Berzerk is popular is because the band tours regularly, and Stephen Groth knows how to work an audience. He said “L.A.” at least ten times over the evening: “Sing to me, L.A.!”, “It’s good to be back in L.A.”, etc. Granted, every time he did, I thought of Spinal Tap reading off their guitars on the Simpsons (“It’s good to be back in…Springfield.”), but he still knew how to work the crowd. Like David Gahan of Depeche Mode, Groth knows that his fans love his music, and they know all the words, and he will hold out a microphone and tell them to sing along. Depeche Mode concerts almost resemble a sing-along at times, especially during “Enjoy the Silence”, and Apoptygma Berzerk was similar in that regard. Of course, it was much better to be singing and waving while ten feet from the lead singer, instead of being hundreds of feet away at the Hollywood Bowl or the Staples Center. Groth sang and bounced around and thanked the crowd for being there, and acknowledged that they all knew his work and knew it going all the way back. He threw in “Bitch”, and “Love Never Dies” (THERE’S a late 90s anthem – took me right back to Sandman graphic novels and The Crow). They played a handful of tracks off the new album, but opened and wound down with “Welcome to Earth”. I also knew the show was ending soon when Groth yelled, “Are you ready for some synthpop?” and the opening sample to “Kathy’s Song” started. THAT is a sing-along classic, and everyone in the room knew it. And after that song, instead of waiting for the encore (“Mourn”, I was sure), I snuck out, and headed home before the tiredness I knew was waiting for me, could catch up with me.
I found my car, and drove home, still elated from the show. I had so enjoyed it, and had enjoyed being out at the club. I don’t go out much anymore – I’m a mama, after all, and I work. But I do love it – I love to dress up, go out and dance to music that I know and enjoy. And I love seeing shows where the musicians know how to perform, and know how to share their emotions with the crowd. Good performers know that there is an emotional bond that their fans have with the music, and they will bring more enthusiasm and enjoyment to their performances because of it. It was a good night – I enjoyed it – and I still had enough energy when I got home to remove my layers upon layers of eyeliner before going to sleep.