Not Just the Ticket — #52, KMFDM, June 7 1992

KMFDM, Palace

Then-current album: Money

Opening act: completely blanking on this

Back of ticket ad: And I never thought I would be glad to see a Fox Photo ad.

I almost hadn’t realized how many shows I was going to in June 1992 until I started going through all this again — massive senioritis at this point, obviously. But I think I’m glad I at least had one day off in this stretch, I probably needed the sleep.

Meantime, loud shaven headed Germans barking out words. But I kid the World Cup third place finishers.

More seriously — if anything, as has been sometimes tediously remarked upon, the very makeup of the German team in the just concluded tournament is reflective of changes in said society, as much as it reflective of this world of mass international migration and immigration. National stereotyping is something that gives ease and comfort, it explains things to a mind where there’s a lot to take in. I grew up with it, I doubtless sometimes still give in to it more than I realize. At the very least one should eventually realize that not every English resident is a Caucasian sipping away daintily on some tea with the Queen in attendance, not every French citizen is brandishing a baguette while wearing a beret and so forth. New stereotypes take precedence over old ones, we all struggle against being so caught up in the broad-brush visions of things and desperately hope we don’t come across as ones ourselves (or, alternately, thrive on it).

All of which is a long way of saying that when I saw KMFDM live I kinda expected them to be like they were not only because I was familiar with the music but because it was the type of thing that all German musicians seemed to do, if they weren’t classical artists. The dangers of selectively choosing what to hear illustrated, really.

Of course, not all of it was down to my own choosing. In terms of knowing what ‘German’ music was like, at least in the recent pop realm, I didn’t have much in the way of obvious role models or reference points. Giorgio Moroder was probably the first one I knew about, if not by name, simply due to his work with Donna Summer, but for that reason I didn’t think of him via his particular passport. The phenomena of home grown pop and rock stars in Deutschland was, as with so much else that wasn’t American, a closed book by default; I’m almost positive the first German pop act I ever heard referred to as such and clearly was Peter Schilling thanks to his reworking of David Bowie, “Major Tom,” in a nervous but attractive FM synthpop vein. Shortly after that I heard the Scorpions for the first time, and as time went on it seemed that all the German musicians I knew about were either electronics freaks, heavy metal stompers or, increasingly, a little of both. Kraftwerk kept getting name dropped all over the place, I heard about this one act called Einsturzende Neubaten, Nitzer Ebb made friends think of D.A.F. — a picture slowly emerged, and it seemed within well shaped boundaries.

KMFDM, in a way, was perfectly positioned to take advantage of all this to me as a listener — it really WAS a case of electronic freaks who were heavy metal stompers or vice versa or however you have it. I think I first heard about them via an interview in B-Side magazine or something similar, with the stark acronym of the name and a strong photograph of Sascha Konietzko behind his trademark dark glasses immediately catching my eye. That sense of immediate visual appeal as much as anything else was furthered by their series of stark series of album and singles covers, all very much one of a piece and for the most part (when it came to the albums) featuring five letter titles to match the five letter bandname. My friend Rich A. later once talked about their use of self-referentiality in their lyrics as being more than a little Dada-inspired, but damn if it wasn’t effective branding.

The look of the band helped too — besides Sascha there was En Esch, who I’d actually first seen the previous fall with Pigface, and who was kind of impossible to ignore, since towering bald guys shouting German, as previously noted, gets the attention, but even more so when the guy was in ripped fishnets. My favorite album of theirs remains the one before Money, the varied and quite accomplished Naive — and I’m lucky enough to have the version before a number of samples had to be removed from later pressings — but Money had plenty to offer it, I hadn’t seen them before and so once again I was at the Palace, this time just a few days after the All/Big Drill Car show, waiting to see what would happen.

I’d guess I was with my fellow KLA industrial music freaks — Kris C., Steve M., maybe some others — and I suppose there was an opening act but I am completely, totally blanking out if that was in fact the case. A few years after this show — at a show I missed even though it was only about ten blocks or so from where I was living at the time — they came through with Rammstein opening for them, the younger band then on their first American tour, and I wish I could have a story like that to tell with this one. But a complete blank being drawn here — I don’t even remember it being some random run of the mill Wax Trax! band, though that would be the most appropriate act for them in America at least if it wasn’t otherwise a name outfit. So a blank spot there, perhaps filled in by memories of wandering the floor a bit as per usual and hitting up the water fountain near the bar as needed.

As for KMFDM itself, it was damn good fun, almost a kick-up-your-heels sort of affair — there might even have been dancers on stage? I could be misremembering things there but it seemed like the kind of show that needed to have dancers with ‘em. Given how the two fell out seeing the pair of En Esch and Sascha on stage killing it was pretty damn sharp — they blended together well in studio so seeing who did (and sang) what was actually a little informative, more than I might have guessed.

I remember watching the show from up close, not front of the crowd close but not tucked away in my usual safe spot to the side either, though I seem to remember seeing them almost in profile more than once. Yet that could have been due to leaning up and over someone, I’m just not sure. The set was brisk, quick, explosive — “Naive,” “Godlike,” “Money,” “Sex on the Flag,” plenty of other songs played, all a bit of a blast in my brain now. At one point Sascha stepped forward, whipped off his glasses midway through a verse and struck a pose that, while it was all doubtless well practiced at that point, still felt great and momentous (after all, how else would I be writing about it about now if I didn’t remember that).

Yet for all that this wasn’t the most memorable KMFDM show for me ever, or even that year — but I’ll get to that at a later point.

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