40 Years of Bauhaus

You must be an enigma. This is what creates attraction to beauty. You walk on and you do it, and this is what I have always felt. The moment I walk on stage, I live there.

–Peter Murphy

I promise that this blog will veer back to the realm of dreams sometime soon! However, I’d be remiss to skip posting about this weekend’s surprise main event, which was a dream in its own right. You see, this past Saturday night, I found myself on the front row of my very first Bauhaus (okay, so mostly Bauhaus) show!

In truth, I almost missed the concert entirely. If it weren’t for a heads-up from a dear friend, StubHub, and a bit of timing regarding Liam being with his dad, I wouldn’t have been able to make it. The stars did align however, so I did what any good Goth kid would do: threw on a black velvet dress, leather jacket, and boots, and headed out to Carrboro.

Bauhaus. I remember the first time I read the name. I was about 16 and skulking around an online vampyre forum on Yahoo, looking for some kind of trouble. One of the older vampyres on the forum, the unforgettably named Angelus, was chatting away about this penultimate 80s Goth band with the German art school name. I was familiar with the Cure, of course, and even the art school, but who was Bauhaus the band? One trip to WinMX later, and I had downloaded their first two albums and realized they were quite British, and also quite wonderful.

The Bauhaus logo, designed by David J

And no wonder, on that front. Bauhaus has influenced many modern rock and alternative musicians, from tone to instrumentation and lyrics. Billy Corgan attributes Bauhaus as a major influence for The Smashing Pumpkins, having had the honor of performing “Telegram Sam” on stage with Bauhaus in ’98. From Danzig to Nine Inch Nails, you’d be hard pressed to not find a little Bauhaus seed germinating in most modern rock and alternative. If you want proof? I implore you to listen to “Small Talk Stinks” by Bauhaus, and then “The Beautiful People” by Marilyn Manson, and tell me you don’t hear Peter Murphy and crew coming through.

Bauhaus’ first single, “Bela Lugosi is Dead”, is arguably one of the most well known and iconic songs of the band’s discography.

As an abandoned kid with a righteous anger towards society and a profound sadness for the world at large? Their music spoke to me in a way that the more modern rock of my teenage years missed just slightly. Art house, post punk, Gothic rock. That was the ticket! I may have been much younger than those who grew up in the original Bauhaus era, but the spirit was there for me and I readily accepted them into my heavy rotation amongst those they later inspired. I am also fairly certain that in a past life, I was a huge Bauhaus fan based on how immediately I recognized the music and adopted it. If you’re curious “Double Dare”, “Crowds”, and “In the Flat Field” are my favorite Bauhaus songs.

As for the concert, I got there early. Obscenely so. I had read on Peter Murphy’s Facebook page that sound checks started at 5 pm, so at 4:45 I walked up all by my lonesome to the back doors of the Cat’s Cradle. It was cold and I was the only soul in sight. I leaned against the double doors and could hear voices. I shut my eyes to concentrate, attempting to suss out David J or Peter Murphy.

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Sold out at the Cat’s Cradle!

What I didn’t know was that they were moving from one area to the next, and suddenly the venue’s side door opened and out stepped Peter Murphy, David J, and two roadies. There was a super awkward moment wherein I stammered and shuffled out of their way so they could go through the main double doors. I got a “Hello darling” from Peter and a smile from David J in his hat and shades. I stammered an awkward “hello” from me, and a “hello from my friend”. One of the roadies asked if I had a VIP ticket and I said “no, just an early arrival”. They chuckled and went through the double doors, and I called out that they needed to play in Savannah sometime soon. Something was said in response but I couldn’t hear over the sound of the door slamming shut and my own heartbeat pounding in my ears. I think I blushed for an hour afterwards.

I also had a moment with one of the opening acts, Desert Mountain Tribe, during my two hour wait. Apparently they’d lost a piece of equipment and were running around the venue in a tizzy trying to find it. The three men ran by me at one point, and the tallest gave me a smile and a nod before disappearing again. Of course at the time, I had no idea who it was.

Some kind of vibe goin’ on here…

Some VIP ticket holders came and went, and slowly others began to trickle in and join me in waiting. Standing by the back doors, I could hear the soundcheck clearly. The first song they played during the check was a snippet of “Sunshine of your Love” by Cream. It’s a completely different experience when Peter Murphy is belting it out, trust me! They jumped from song to song, pitch to pitch as you’d expect with a sound check, ending with the face melting opening to “Double Dare”. Excitement reached its peak at that point and I forgot how cold I was.

A bit after 7 pm, the doors finally opened and I raced to the front to claim my spot for the rest of the night. I made small talk with the woman to my left, Tamara, who was also seeing Bauhaus live for the first time. A roadie came out and taped the set list to the stage floor, and we made a pact to get it and split the two pages between us.

Up close and personal!

I will freely admit that I’d not previously heard of either of the two opening acts before. It was clear however, why Peter and David J chose them for the 40 Years of Bauhaus tour, as they were lovely and eclectic in that Bauhaus way.

The first, Desert Mountain Tribe, is a modern Bauhaus. If you could imagine Bauhaus blending with New Order, then there you have it. They put on a great show, and their song Midnight Sky was particularly lovely. The lead singer has some pipes, the bassist is amazing, and the drummer was an absolute madman. He hit the kick drum so hard that each beat reverberated in my chest, threatening to tear my heart out of rhythm. Turns out it was the drummer who had given me the smile and nod before!

Jonty of Desert Mountain Tribe
Desert Mountain Tribe

After their set, the lights stayed quite low and a darkly dressed figure sauntered onto stage left. Someone behind me shouted that it was Peter Murphy in drag. A drag queen for sure, but not Peter Murphy. She introduced herself as Vinsantos, took off her black stilettos, and then began to play an amazing set on the piano. Her first song was particularly beautiful to me, with melodic major chords seducing me straight to my soul, and heartbreaking lyrics to finish the job. I’m frustrated as I cannot find the name of this song in particular! If I had to describe her sound? David Bowie meets Pink Floyd, with a dash of Led Zeppelin for good measure. She was damn good, and hilarious to boot. Her eccentric sound and humor had the audience laughing at some points, but just as quickly, she could change the mood and have most near tears. Her song “India” in particular is a gorgeous arrangement.

Vinsantos performing “Anger Makes Me Mad”

Before she left, Peter Murphy demanded from on high that she play one last song: “Crowds”, which she played just as beautifully as her own songs. It was immediately apparent that the song meant more to her than a mere cover, and the crowd responded with wild applause and a few calls for an encore.

The main act itself was something to wait for, and very worth it, too. We had about 45 minutes that went by between Vinsantos’ departure and Bauhaus taking the stage. I suppose the universe is very set on teaching me patience, these days. In the interim, Edith Piaf’s greatest hits played over the club’s sound system which was a delight to me, as several iterations of “La Vie en Rose”, a personal favorite, graced the airwaves.

After the worthwhile wait, Bauhaus finally appeared. The venue was plunged into darkness and a guitar snarled in the shadows. Lights slowly began to brighten as that signature bass line pinged on high and the guitar growled again before falling into the steady, heart pounding introduction of “Double Dare”. Through the smoke, Peter Murphy emerged, followed by David J to much fanfare, and then the guitarist Mark Thwaite, and drummer, Marc Slutsky. They played at break-neck pace, not stopping from “Double Dare” to “In the Flat Field”, to “God in an Alcove”. In fact, they played so feverishly that they were halfway through the set before anyone took a break or said a word to the audience, not that anyone complained!

Peter Murphy and David J performing “God in an Alcove”
Peter Murphy all a’glitterin’

Recent concerts I have been to have relied heavily on background theatrics to enhance the show. This can work wonders, as it did for the Smashing Pumpkins’ recent “Shiny and Oh So Bright” tour, or it can take away from the act, as I experienced with Sylvan Esso and their seizure inducing light backdrop. There were no such theatrics for this show: a stripped down stage with the ethereal Peter Murphy sashaying and posing while David J held his bass overhead was the only show we needed. No flashing lights or strobes, no videos playing in the background. People were there to see the powerhouse half of Bauhaus, and they knew it and played to that desire perfectly.

Peter Murphy finally gave a welcome and an “I love you” to the crowd in a brief rest before launching straight into “King Volcano”, “Bela Lugosi is Dead”, and “Hedges”. They tore through the second half of the set just as quickly as the first, only stopping before the final song, “Dark Entries”. Very cheekily, he asked if they had found themselves in “Carlsborro”, and wanted to know what the deal with all the cats was about. David J, ever silent, crushed a rose and threw it into the crowd, of which I managed to catch a petal, now currently pressed in a book.

The Godfather of Goth

All the while that they played, the guitarist Mark Thwaite was stationed directly in front of me. We made eye contact a few times, eliciting smiles on both sides, and I noticed he continuously directed his gaze towards a young boy of about 7 who was snugged up to my right side, his parents behind him. At the end of the show, he gave the boy his guitar pick, which was such a sweet and sincere gesture. Lucky kid!

Mark Thwaite on guitar

Of course no concert is complete without an encore, and after screaming myself hoarse with the crowd, they took the stage one last time to play “Telegram Sam” by T. Rex before ending with the eternal “Ziggy Stardust” by David Bowie. An absolutely incredible way to end the show, while also giving a nod to Peter Murphy’s upcoming David Bowie Tribute show at his San Francisco residency.

The elusive and enigmatic David J

All in all, the show was phenomenal. Peter Murphy was at his most Peter Murphy-esque, dancing in flowing, otherworldly movements through the shadows and smoke, ever the vampiric figure. I’m not accustomed to seeing him with facial hair, so that was a bit different, but he was still unmistakably Peter Murphy all the same, and did he ever live on that stage! David J only broke silence long enough to provide backup vocals, focusing on absolutely shredding the baseline, signature shades worn, even in darkness. I have to say that the drummer Marc Slutsky and guitarist Mark Thwaite were fantastic in their own right. Though the true Bauhaus lineup was lacking Kevin and Daniel, it did not suffer from their absence in the stead of these great musicians. The pure joy on Mark Thwaite’s face was enough to endear him to even the staunchest Bauhaus purist, not to mention his flawless execution throughout.

Once the stage was clear, one of the roadies came out and ripped the setlist from the floor and tossed it over his shoulder. Without missing a beat, I sprang up and over the barricade and caught the two pages in hand. I was a little bit afraid, to be honest, as a twenty-something girl with braces hip checked me and grabbed my hair as I vaulted. I really wasn’t expecting to fight over a piece of paper! Fortunately for me, Tamara wedged herself between us to protect me, and we split the setlist as agreed. A killer end to a killer night!

The Spoils of War!

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