Straftanz and VNV Nation at the 9:30 Club.

28 December 2011

Earlier this month Lyssa and I took the daughter of a good friend of ours to her first concert at the 9:30 Club in downtown DC. We decided that we wanted her first concert to be a memorable one, so we took her to see VNV Nation when their latest tour took them through our nation's capital. So, one evening, we hit up a local restaurant for dinner and then headed downtown, a remarkably short jaunt these days since the move.

Shortly after arriving I ran into Mike and Tara, two old friends of mine from a previous trip through the Beltway circuit. We caught up on old times and everything that's been happening in the past two or three years, raided the merchandise table, and then staked out space on the dancefloor to watch the show.

The opening act was called Straftanz, and they are a pair of crazy German cyberpunks who seem to have about as much fun on stage performing as the rest of us did watching them. At first a few of us thought that they were going to be yet another "boot up the laptop and press play" act, but they made up for having 'just' a laptop by bouncing around the stage as if they'd mainlined shots of espresso prior to hitting the power button. You'd have thought that they were at their favorite club night on the dancefloor from the way they.. well... had a good time. Granted, I'm not really one for audience callbacks when they're in a language I don't know but it was fun to watch them interact with the crowd just the same. There was even a drum machine solo by DJ P0n-3 about halfway through their set, which reduced a few of us to giggling heaps on the floor. I was kind of upset when their set was over because it was so obvious that they were having so much fun up there I was enjoying watching them to see what they'd do next. I also recommend that you read the blog on their website, it's just as fun as they are.

Then came a set break, followed by a countdown on the big LED boards at the back of the stage before VNV Nation took over. VNV always puts on a high-energy show, and this time was no different. I'm probably putting myself in the line of fire by saying that you have to respect an industrial act that has a drummer playing drum pads hooked to a sampler in their stage show rather than a preprogrammed drum machine. However, their sound mix that night was a little off (way too much bass, not enough of everything else) so everything sounded... flat? Empty? Missing something important, at any rate. I spent the show feeling like there was something really important that I wasn't getting that everyone else obviously was. I'm not sure what it could be - intellectually I know what should have been there, but on other levels I felt a little like I messed up the secret handshake or didn't lift the goat's tail or something. We were extremely amused when Straftanz good-naturedly bought the band a round of drinks and brought them up to the edge of the stage; unfortunately, it's not legal to do that in DC so they had to be turned away at the last moment. I maintain that Ronan having identified the libations as Jagermeister at the last minute had nothing to do with it.

I don't know how long VNV Nation's set lasted; I do know that they did two encores in addition to a full concert (here's the setlist) and by the end of the night each and every one of us were sore and reeling. None of us are really used to such a short drive home after a show, so I think all of us got rather more sleep than we otherwise would have under the circumstances. I still highly recommend that you go to see VNV Nation live if you get a chance, I think there is an excellent chance that you'll take something away from their lyrics that you don't expect if you listen carefully. I took a few pictures at the show where I could, feel free to take a look at them if you like.