Seeing Kraftwerk at Vivid

SIMON SWEETMAN
Last updated 11:00 15/05/2013

The highlight of Sydney's Vivid Festival (which starts next weekend and rolls through to mid-June) is surely Kraftwerk. The pioneering electronic/techno/synth/avant-garde/Krautrock/experimental group has been an influence across the last 30-40 years, over so many genres including indie-pop, hip-hop, electronica and various forms of dance music. Kraftwerk 12345678

And for their headlining slot at Vivid the band is playing The Catalogue 12345678 shows - meaning across four nights, two shows a night, there is the chance to hear eight albums performed in their entirety. One per show. It starts with 1974's Autobahn on the Friday night at 7.30pm and on Monday, May 27 at 9.30pm the final album, 2003's Tour de France will be performed live.

In between there are shows in support of Radio-Activity (1975), Trans-Europe Express (1977), The Man Machine (1978), Computer World (1981), Techno Pop  (1986) and The Mix (1991). The eight albums from the "classic" Kraftwerk period/sound/style.

Now not every single one of those albums is a classic - but, then again, what a line-up: Autobahn, Trans-Europe Express, The Man Machine and Computer World - probably in that order too (although maybe I'd slide Man Machine up ahead of Trans-Europe, maybe) are albums that have meant a lot to me.
Autobahn
I bought a few of the vinyl reissues the other year and readers of my Vinyl Countdown blog will know (perhaps) that I've already gassed on a wee bit about Autobahn, Trans-Europe Express and Computer World (well, if you didn't know already now the links are there).

The Kraftwerk records are indulgences - I approach them with an almost fetishist approach; certainly in the case of those recent vinyl reissues. Lovely things. And I make the point in one of my Vinyl Countdown posts (the Computer World one, in fact) that I never ever seem to listen to Kraftwerk with other people. I just assume other people like Kraftwerk and listen to the music - or don't. And, therefore, do not. It's never been something I've wanted to introduce people to. Or have a conversation about. And I don't wait around in record stores for the chance to chin-stroke and gas-bag about Kraftwerk. (Well, alright, I may have done that once). Radio-Activity

A lot of the music I've been fond of for many years comes with a story or two - one of introduction. I found it in the record rack or CD shelf at home because it was mum or dad's favourite - or both of them loved it. It was music my older brother heard first. Or the whole family built memories from holidays that had music soundtracking our adventures. There is music my friends and I listen to when we catch up and struggle to find more than a handful of things that we can all agree on. We all have those sorts of stories/connections with music, right?

Then there are those artists you just seem to discover. You find them on your own. Obviously seminal acts - and maybe Kraftwerk are in a line with things like The Velvet Underground and Brian Eno where the name-dropping just gets to the point that you have to find out for yourself - and often you find out a lot about them in the pages of the music press, in books about other musicians; from conversations with other music fans. With Kraftwerk there's the likelihood too that a sample of a Kraftwerk tune was the introduction, something like Afrika Bambaataa and Soul Sonic Force's Planet Rock perhaps?

Kraftwerk was something I found by myself - from reading, yes. From hearing samples too, from picking up snatches of it in soundtracks and in soundalikes, from joining the dots between other (similar/influenced by) acts...and maybe that's part of why I have kept Kraftwerk to myself; I discovered them on my own and it was nice to feel like it was my own secret. Well, not even that, as clearly by the time I got to them there was no secret. But just something to have to myself.
The Man Machine
Well next week I'll be listening to Kraftwerk with a bunch of other people. I'm flying over to Sydney to attend the Vivid Festival for the weekend. I'm going to see Kraftwerk. I'm not sure what album-show I'll be seeing yet but there's a good chance it will be Autobahn. It might be Radio-Activity. It might be both!

I'm pretty excited.

I've been reading Alan Cross' Kindle Single, Kraftwerk: The Secret History. And the new-ish band bio, Kraftwerk: Publikation by David Buckley. There are other Kraftwerk books - many I've read. Some I'll get to another time. But I'll be enjoying the vinyl reissues this weekend and across the week ahead. As I build up for the trip.

There will be other things to see and hear as part of the Vivid Festival and I'm certainly very excited to be going, to be able to check a few other things out. I'll be writing about it too. Here. And over at Off The Tracks too. I'll review everything I get to - share the experiences. If you follow me and/or this page on Facebook/Twitter you will, no doubt, be swamped with links and mentions of everything I loved or loathed.

But right now it's about Kraftwerk. That's the thing I'm most excited about. That's the reason I'm getting on the plane.

So I wondered if anyone else is going to one - or more - of the shows? Or if you've seen them before and have a story - positive or negative - about experiencing Kraftwerk live? Trans-Europe Express

And if you could pick one album from the band - from that list - to experience live which one would you want to see and hear?

Are you a Kraftwerk fan? Or have you never understood the fascination with this band? Do you consider them influential? Or do you think they're - here comes that horrid word - overrated?

Postscript: There were three albums before Autobahn. I really like Kraftwerk 2 (1970 and Ralf und Florian (1973).

Second Postscript: Past member Karl Bartos has released a new album in recent times. Click here for my review of his latest album, Off The Record.

Blog on the Tracks is on Facebook and Twitter.

You can also check out Off the Tracks for The Vinyl Countdown, reviews and other posts.

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