Review: Die Roten Punkte’s Kunst Rock at The Cultch
Last night we had the opportunity to be on hand at the opening of Kunst Rock (Art Rock) at the Cultch. The production marks the third ‘album’ by fringe darlings Die Roten Punkte (The Red Dots) – a ‘faux-German’ indie/pop/rock band consisting of the fictional brother-and-sister duo, Otto and Astrid Rot.
The pair presented 90-minutes of tongue-in-cheek, comedic rock compositions (whose absurdly delightful subjects included a dinosaur working at a fast food restaurant and a robot who thinks he is a lion) peppered with bouts of sibling rivalry and rock-star showboating. The songs themselves, though silly in terms of content, were of a surprisingly high quality. The structure of each belied a strong musical understanding and included intelligent, unexpected modulations and key changes that produce shivers of delight. Several of the evening’s offerings could stand toe-to-toe with more than a few top 40 tunes currently populating radio play lists.
The quality of music produced was all the more impressive, given that it was performed almost exclusively on child-sized instruments. Otto alternated between a pair of children’s electric guitars and Astrid had a similarly diminuitive drum kit (though thankfully there was a full sized snare drum, tom, and high hat in place behind the miniature kick). The instruments were present on stage even as the audiences filed into the theatre and established a small sense of ridiculousness before the performance began.
In marketing materials, the show was compared with Spinal Tap and Flight of the Concords, and while there are certainly parralels, it would be inaccurate to place all three acts in the same category. Spinal Tap and Flight of the Concords are largely satire – devoted to parodying particular styles of music or musicians. This element was certainly present with Die Roten Punkte, however, as the night continued we came to identify the act as being closer in spirit to a traditional clown show.
Clown-like elements were all in place – the ridiculous props, the pair’s white facepaint and bright red lips, the physical antics, the audience interaction – and it was not long in to the show before the defining characteristic of a clown – complete and utter innocence – was established and on full display. Within minutes of the first song Otto (purposely) missed a key change. The flub instantly halted the song and resulted in a didactic Astrid forcing a perplexed Otto to apologize to Vancouver for his mistake. The exchange could have been played with vitriol and shame, but was instead carried out with openess, sincerity, and bafflement. This innocent approach to the material was present throughout the entire show- from Astrid’s awkward, playful attempts to perform a “sexy” song to Otto’s inextinguishable enthusiasm for his protective banana case (in an odd twist of fate, the inventor of the banana case happened to be in house that night).*
In its entirety, the show would prove to be a light-hearted, hilarious, and entirely enjoyable experience. While some might be turned off by the notion of our describing it as a ‘clown show’ (and we can certainly understand why the Cultch wouldn’t advertise it as such) – this is clowning of the best kind. With their child-like sense of wonder and warm-hearted antics, Otto and Astrid offer audiences an opportunity to soften and feel a special kind of cathartic love that we can only extend toward the truly innocent.
The show offers an opportunity to let go of cynicism and pre-tense and get lost in 90-minutes of foot-stomping, belly-laughing silliness.
Check out the music video for the show’s opening number, Burger Store Dinosaur (filmed in an impressive, single shot):
Die Roten Punkte’s Kunst Rock runs until August 13 at the Cultch.
Visit thecultch.com for tickets.
* Update: They got us! Our friends at the Cultch inform us that the audience member who played along so well (and for so long) was not, in fact, the creator of the bananaheus. It is a testament to the duo’s skill that their excitement and surprise were so complete and genuine that we in the audience completely bought it!