I saw Modeselektor for the first time in Japan three years ago. My plane touched down in Osaka, a place completely foreign to me, and I commuted directly to a Radiohead concert. It was my first time seeing the band live, and so I was too distracted and impatient to give a shit about the opener, Modeselektor. My indifference was shaken as soon as the lights grew dim, the crowd began to cheer, video projections animated the space and the floor vibrated with mind-blowing beats. I had never witnessed anything like it. That night, in Japan, my unrelenting obsession with Modeselektor was born.
It’s hard to describe Modeselektor’s music to anyone you doesn’t know it. It defies genre. Although it’s classified as techno, it’s not quit that. Neither is it straight up electro. It’s sophisticated, intense and unbelievably dancey all at once. The song “Rusty Nails”, on which they collaborated with Aparat (Modselektor + Aparat = Moderat) still gives me goosebumps every time I hear it (and I listen to it a lot). Their remix of Bjork and Antony Hegart’s “Dull Flame of Desire" is truly unbelievable; and “Berlin” from their latest album, Monkeytown, is the greatest party-jam of life. Video projections are integral to the live performances. Modeselektor works closely with Pfadfinderei, whose videos have been displayed at the Centre Pompidou and at the MoMA, to produce custom projections. The seamless combination of music and video makes for an all body high when witnessed in person.
Last month, I took the bus to Montreal, where Modeselektor was playing at The Metropolis. Though I was disappointed that they’d decided against playing a show in Toronto, I wasn’t surprised. Only a handful of people showed up to see them at their last Toronto show at Mod Club. Seriously, WTF!? Though I’m not one to bash Toronto, my experiences at shows as of late would lead me to believe that the local crowd has a penchant for less than awesome party behaviour; and so, I’m glad to have seen my favourite act in Montreal, where everyone was dancing, cheering, whistling and seemingly just as excited as I was.
Let me back this point up with an example. Last weekend, I saw James Murphy (of LCD Soundsystem) DJ at The Hoxton. He spun one of the most creative sets I’ve ever heard, and yet the crowd was stiff. The majority of people were standing or bopping a little, with the exception of those shoving their way to the stage. I have no problem with wanting to get an upfront view; but there are ways to work the crowd and to move through it without elbowing anyone. To boot, beer bottles were being dropped all over the floor, which seemed lazy and obnoxious considering the intimate size of the venue; and it took a whole lot of will-power not to scream at the creepy guy in front of me, who stood like a brick wall, blatantly inspecting the ladies’ bottoms in front of him. Half way through the set I gave up my spot in the middle of the crowd and moved to the very back of the bar, where other fans were dancing appreciatively to the amazing tunes, away from the bullshit. And although I ultimately had a great time, I couldn’t help but compare the fun Montreal crowd to the infuriating Toronto one that night.
Don’t get me wrong Toronto’s nightlife can be a blast. You can find a satisfying dance party at Cold Tea, The Gladstone or The Boat (to name a few); but I think Toronto’s nightlife needs to mature. Our big venues for live music are crap, and the monthly dance parties like Turning Point or Chronologic often fill up before doors even open because we’re all so desperate to dance!! Our club district is a joke, and as far as I can tell no serious techno or house scene exists here. The city’s nightlife isn’t just isn’t a part of our everyday culture, yet. The club scene is more about getting drunk than it is about dancing to decent music. Montreal is known to be more European than Toronto, and the local nightlife certainly brings our shortcomings to light.
To get a better sense of a Modeselektor show, watch this trailer from their latest tour. This time round they added neon lights to the mix. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.