Sunday, 24 April 2005

It’s not often I go to a show on a whim, but when my friend Hjalmer mentioned in passing that M83 was playing at some obscure club Saturday night, I had to at least look…and ended up going.

The show was at a place called The Triple Rock Social Club. The “old bar” has been around for many years, but they also have a newer performance space. It was my first time there, and sadly, wasn’t really that with the venue itself. It’s essentially a converted storefront space with cement floors, minimal acoustic management, not enough space inside and terrible parking. Thankfully the beer was reasonably priced and the music was amazing.

Ulrich Schnauss opened the show with about a 60 minute set. It was basically just a guy with a computer (15″ or 17″ Powerbook), a MIDI box, and a keyboard. But with that humble array of equipment came some astounding music. Visually his performance wasn’t much to watch—after all, the computer was the backup band, so it was just a guy playing a keyboard. Aurally, it was something else—stunning. The musical equivalent of finding crème brulee in a dive bar. In a way it was unnervingly similar to M83’s style. After Schnauss’ set, I picked up a CD and got a couple seconds to talk with him. He’s a fairly quiet, unassuming guy that plays good music. He was kind enough to give me his autograph, and even wrote a quick note: “Michael, thanks for coming to the show! Cheers, Ulrich Schnauss.” So it’s not a personal note, other than my name. Most artists don’t do that much, so the extra effort is appreciated.

Any worries I had about the likeness of Schnauss’ sound to that of M83 were gone once they took the stage. A delicious fusion of keyboards, vocals, guitar, bass and drums creating a sonic wash that conjures the likes of Tangerine Dream, Sigur Ros, Jean-Michel Jarre, Air, and My Bloody Valentine. In what seemed be the theme for the eveing, with astounding music came minimal stage design. It was just four guys playing their instruments. No fancy lights, subdued stage presence, and little banter with the audience. That wasn’t really a problem, since their music did well to speak for them. Meeting them after the show, I realized why they didn’t talk much: heavy French accents and limited practice with English. I managed to get three (out of four) of their autographs. The bass player disappeared right after they left the stage and didn’t come back out.

In spite of the underwhelming qualities of the club and the visually business-like nature of the performances, it was a good evening and I’m glad I went. It may have been my only chance to see M83 play live, so there’s definitely no regrets. As for seeing another show at the Triple Rock; it doesn’t seem likely unless it was a really compelling show.