Blixa Bargeld Speaks!

Blixa Bargeld of Einstürzende Neubauten and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds fame crushes all language barriers...

The “How to Destroy the Universe, Part 5” Festival took place in San Francisco this past weekend and I went to it at the Studio Z Club on Saturday, January 28th. While I didn’t attend the whole event, which started at 7, I did manage to catch two bands, Black Ice and F-Space. And of course I stuck around, despite a killer migraine, to hear Blixa Bargeld of Einstürzende Neubauten and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds fame provide a spoken word performance.

Promising to “destroy all dogmatic verbal systems,” the festival featured many bands and performers and ran from January 26 to January 29 in SF. It ended in Calgary, Alberta, Canada on February 5. Sponsored by Mobilization Records, the festival offers the finest of the weirdest in SF that money can buy (tickets were pretty expensive; good thing I got in free!).

Black Ice were a bizarre band. Think Siouxsie without the voice but all the pretensions, and you’ll have a nice picture of the band’s lead singer. The rest of the band was adequate. They had a rather unique lineup – the bass player and keyboardist kept changing instruments. But ultimately, they didn’t impress me much. Just another Goth band trying to vie for my attention, and failing. I think it was the lead singer’s silly interpretive dances that killed it for me.

F-Space were much better. This band truly embodies the experimental music school. Its players consisted of a guitarist, a drummer, and a … well, I don’t know what to call the third member. He played a contraption with some metal rods and a few noisy springs, amped up. At first I really enjoyed them; I’m really into experimental music. You should see my record collection. But then, the weird instrument player had to do the unthinkable: open his mouth. There went all my respect for the band right there. They were doing so well, really impressing me with their combo, only to have horrible lyrics that made little to no sense. Really. Depressing, I know.

And now that left us with Blixa to hear. And it made the whole night worth it. He was funny and clever and he did some neat looping of his vocal talent. He has a very deep, yet lilting voice, a real powerful yet gentle one. That might sound oxymoronic, but it’s true. He could be powerful and soft-spoken as he deemed fit. When he got riled up about the state of affairs in the country, for example, his voice could kill. But other times, you’d think he wasn’t even performing at all, just speaking to you personally. Masterful vocal work for sure. Unfortunately, while it was a spoken word performance, I can remember little of the content, so awed was I merely by his presence. But I do recall some of things. First off, he looked like a very well-fed Blixa. Not that he was huge or anything, but he had a nice tummy bulge for one so Goth/industrial. And his hair was rather normal for someone of his stature. A dark brown bob-like cut, with the pieces falling in front of his eyes.

As for the performance itself, it began with talk about the planets, the music that Uranus might make. He made considerable note of the time difference between Beijing and SF, and also enjoyed making fun of some hecklers, speaking in very broken German. Most amusingly, he talked at length about pop music always having a 4/4 score, and surmised that a computer in a basement somewhere must exist that pelts out all the pop numbers. I think that covers most of the show. Now that I know he lives in SF, I won’t be so worried about missing his acts anymore. This time, unfortunately, I had taken some painkillers for my migraine, which always impedes my ability to pay attention to anything. Still, the looping kept me entertained, and my boyfriend really loved the show. So I’m a crap music reviewer when I’ve got a migraine. At least I went out!

In all, my night at this festival was marred by my headache. I’m sure I’d be less harsh on the bands and have more fun to report about Blixa’s performance were I not incapacitated by major head trauma. I do have some interesting facts to relay: “bargeld” means “money” in German, and “blixa,” in another language which I forget right now, means “pen.” So the next time you see Blixa, be sure to call him Uniball Yen or Bic Buck. I’m sure he’ll love you for it!

-Diana Slampyak