Sunday, October 5, 2008

Last Night Electro Saved My Sanity: MSTRKRFT in WNNPG

The first time MSTRKRFT came through Winnipeg I didn't bother going and then I regretted it. When you realize that the only artists from Modular that you will ever get a chance to see come to your city are Wolfmother and MSTRKRFT, you start to panic when you miss the better of the two. Of course I had seen one half of MSTRKRFT a couple of years back when he opened for Nine Inch Nails in Death From Above 1979, and I loved it. When Jesse F. Keeler hooked up with Al-P to become MSTRKRFT, I fell in love with their brand of electro beats that sit well next to the likes of Justice, Daft Punk and Simian Mobile Disco. Not to mention their stunning remixing abilities. So, needless to say, I decided that I just had to go to the Exchange Event Centre last night for MSTRKRFT without a second thought. Oddly enough, it only hit me much (much) later that night that a show like this was a different beast from the ones I normally attend. Throughout the night I discovered the difference between a traditional live gig and a DJ gig, and in some ways, the similarities, too. And for some reason, I can't say I had ever given much thought to it before.

The time advertised for the gig was 9pm, but thankfully, my friend, Lisa, and I didn't really show up til 10 because, as we soon discovered, that still meant we had another two hours to go before the opener Felix Cartal came on. As we ventured further into the club, I started thinking the idiotic pseudo-bouncer needn't have scrutinized my ID so keenly. All he had to do was clock the level of my awkwardness and displacement in a place like this. The reasons why I never was a clubber came flooding back to me as drunken couples groped each other and girls tottered around in high heels and short shorts. The music preceding the actual show, while infinitely better than the stuff played at Top 40 bars, wasn't particularly inspiring nor distinguishable (aside from snatches of Hot Chip and Justice), and Lisa and I found ourselves seated at the back of the club, yawning from the stressful day's work we had already put in at her office. And probably from rapidly encroaching old age as well. So, as any good curmudgeon would do, we sat there mocking the younger people around us.

There were the girls in matching gold shoes, holding hands like they were part of some nightclub buddy system. There was a b-boy wannabe with a hockey mask permanently perched atop his head (and baseball cap), which led us to the conclusion that the sole purpose of the mask was to keep his hat in place. There was the guy who appeared to be leading an invisible conga line up and down the club, chugging away like the little engine that had no dance partners. There was a guy in neon green sunglasses - a Corey Hart of the long-lost rave scene. One of our personal favourites was Mr. Tall and Awkward, who seemed to be roaming aimlessly alone and waiting for MSTRKRFT - we felt that he was a kindred spirit. Nearly every girl looked like she was trying too hard while nearly every boy looked like he didn't care one iota for trying at all. And many seemed very tied up with mediating and commemorating their own experience whether by digital photo or mobile text. But like pretty much most gigs I've been to, I got the distinct feeling that it was more of an opportunity to be seen rather than to hear a particular artist's music. It was all very interesting from an anthropological standpoint, but the night was beginning to wear on us. At midnight, Felix Cartal came on, but honestly, I didn't get much out of him - there were some fairly dissonant and jarring mixes happening, and his set just ended up feeling too repetitive and not enough to get me anywhere near the sweaty, flying limbs on the dancefloor. It's not like I couldn't stand it, but it's more like I wasn't affected by it.

However, when MSTRKRFT took the stage, I began my stealth journey to the centre of the dancefloor. That pulsing, persistent 4/4 rock beat that makes MSTRKRFT one of my favourite electro acts soothed my otherwise stressed out body and propelled me further and further into the inner core of gyrating bodies. Aside from the sweat raining down on me from the shirtless, grinding idiot atop the platform and the rather fierce knee to the back of my head from another dancer on the aforementioned platform, I had a pretty euphoric time. I literally lost myself in the music, usually shutting my eyes and moving like a de-programmed robot (no sexy dance from me). I was whipping my head around so fast that I became completely disoriented and detached from the people moving around me. Between the unsure footing rolling on top of discarded glow sticks and the green lights spidering across the ceiling and walls, I seemed to effectively separate my mind from my body. While I caught glimpses of MSTRKRFT on the stage from time to time, rather than focusing on the artist, I focused on the music in a new way. But at the same time, I couldn't tell you exactly what was being played or remixed at every moment, and that was okay. It was pure feeling without concentration - perhaps it was the bliss of a brief numbness to the outside world. Like that moment in the film I Heart Huckabees when Mark Wahlberg and Jason Schwartzman smack themselves in the head with a big plastic ball to achieve a state of non-thought for a fleeting moment. But this was for an hour and a half. And it included a complete abandoning of kinesthetic sense. As I made my way back up the stairs from my drowning on the dancefloor, I felt like I had sea legs.

One of the memorable highlights for me was the remix that featured bits of Hot Chip and then pieces of Happy Mondays' Hallelujah. I also recognized their remix of fellow labelmate Wolfmother's Woman, Justice's D.A.N.C.E. (apparently a hot track for the night considering it was played in some form three different times) and Kylie Minogue's Wow along with the odd track off of debut LP, The Looks and, of course, latest single Bounce/Vuvuvu. The set ended with a rather jubilant remix of Daft Punk's One More Time, which allowed for audience participation akin to the live shows I'm accustomed to as MSTRKRFT dampened the vocals and everyone joined in for the "Don't stop the dancin'" refrain. By the end of the night (or early morning), I felt just as exhausted and vindicated as I do leaving any good show, yet knowing that it was the show itself and not the environment that I had fallen for. I could do without most of the people and without the preamble of parading poseurs, but there is always life-preservation in good music. In this case, it was postmodern pastiche as remedy for the postmodern condition.

This tour is continuing on into the US, so if you live in any of the cities they're hitting, get tickets and let MSTRKRFT's beats give you that pummeling gift of oblivion for one night. Fist of God, indeed.


JC said...

"But like pretty much most gigs I've been to, I got the distinct feeling that it was more of an opportunity to be seen rather than to hear a particular artist's music."

Get yourself over here.....its usually a bit different.

Glad it all worked out for you in the end.

Oh and the thing you were doing in the club with your friend.....that's a favourite game of myself and my other half when we go on holiday and there's folk we dont care for at the resort....

Krista said...

Aww c'mon..the guy with the hockey mask was awesome. He was being a super fan (you've seen MSTRKRFT promo pics and merch with hockey masks right?), which is much better than the people there solely for the purpose of being seen. It was an awesome show. I too was there making fun of young 'uns, but unfortunately, I was also guilty of partaking in some digital documentation of my time there.

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