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vancouverplays review


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— Astrid und Otto Rot


The Cultch
Aug. 3-13
From $16  
604-251-1363 or  

Are you ready to rock, Van-cou-vaah?! They’re back! They’re Otto und Astrid Rot, the brother-sister punk band from Berlin. The self-styled “Prince and Princess of Rock ‘n’ Roll.” Die Roten Punkte.

The band’s name translates from German as The Red Dots. But think of them as The Rotten Punks. They’re here on their Kunst Rock (Art Rock) tour, promoting their album of the same name. Is it art? Maybe. Is it rock? Mos def.

 Otto is the killer guitar player. You’ll recognize him by his whiteface make-up, heavy red lipstick and black eyeliner, windmilling and scissor-kicking and wailing away at his little red Gibson Flying-V.

Astrid comes dressed in the full Lady Dracula, black and red all over, whacking her drum kit and protecting her territory. When Otto’s enthusiastic guitar break during his Pixies-inspired “Banana” song brings him right up next to Astrid to share the groove, she jabs him in the crotch with a drum stick. “This is Astrid Island—just stay on your side, Otto!”

Ja, like brothers and sisters everywhere, Astrid and Otto bicker a little. But you have to cut them some slack when you hear about their traumatic childhoods. They were left all alone when their parents were killed in a terrible accident, crushed by a train (says Astrid) or mauled by a lion (according to Otto). One of their many excellent songs—they call it a mini rock opera—pays homage to their parents’ ambiguous tragedy.

Anyway, it’s not their bickering or their banter with the audience that you come to hear. It’s their music. They open with Otto’s enigmatic “Dinosaur” (“searching, yearning”) and build to Astrid’s awesome “Second Best Friend,” a head-banging, sexually explicit, two-chord rock classic. Astrid gets a little tangled up in her microphone cord but the song showcases their fine writing talents: “You’re like a verb, always doing things to me.”

The artiest song in the concert pays homage to Brian Eno, who taught them to listen for hours to water dripping, and to appreciate the sound of a hairbrush on pineapple. “Untitled” (it’s not clear whether the song is just untitled or is titled “Untitled”) is a brilliant collage of random sounds and squeals and insults, fed through a feedback loop and synchronized to a rockin’ beat.

They save the best for their encore. “I’m Not a Robot, I’m a Lion” says something (but who knows what) about the alienation of contemporary post-industrial life. It harkens back to their parents’ tragic end (Otto’s version). And the choreographic mash-up—Janet Jackson meets Devo—shines a light on their substantial dance talents. Best of all, you can buy the tee-shirt.

Rotten? Definitely not. Punks? Maybe. Theatre? Who cares.                                                                                          

Jerry Wasserman