Saturday, November 13, 2010

Mouse on Mars in Vietnam

Communist, German, High Llamas, Ho Chi Minh City, Mouse on Mars, Ramones, Sean O'Hagen, Vietnam, WikipediaAnd that's a little bit like the mice actually being on Mars, only weirder. Looks from the crowd on their sonic noise opening went from hysterical love (young Viet teens) to joy (old foreigners) to confusion (average Vietnamese) to flat out yawning (twenty-sumthing foreign girl) but there's no mistake about it, Mouse on Mars got their houseful, outdoors, in Vietnam tonight.

Arriving with a crowd of thirty-sumthing foreigners with me being the old cat in the crew we immediately sauntered up to the bar for a few brewskies. This took the staff by surprise. "5 minutes", we were told. Somebody at the venue forgot to sort out that beer was usually a staple at rock concerts. So they sent out for it! Ha. Leave it to the folks at the the Ho Chi Minh City Youth Cultural House to not figure out that people go to concerts to have fun. Honestly, none of these people had any idea who the band was, what they were doing there, and why the government (the German Government, actually) was sponsoring a couple of German DJs to come in and tear up their rice paddy for the night. But that's what made it all so much fun as well. It was as close as I had come to seeing the Ramones tear up Texas in 1980 and there was even a German guy with a Ramones t-shirt there. Oh how us oldies won't give it up. We're not going on that golden cruise ship until they come and haul us away!

Things got going in a foghorn sort of way with one of the members holding his mic up to a loud car-horn and driving away at least the pussies from what should have been a 2000 seat venue but only seemed to have about 700. Good. We didn't need those people anyway. The crowd, seemingly 50% foreign and 40% 'we have no friggin idea why we're here' Vietnamese was nicely bolstered by a tiny 10% of Viets who really did seem to get it. Did they do their Wiki homework before the show? Because I certainly had to.

Mouse on Mars is a German techno duo who did time with Stereolab in the 90s. And that means they met Sean O'Hagen of The High Llamas, who's group would make one of my 'Desert Island Disc' selections if needed. I spoke with Mouse, Andi Toma after the show and he confirmed that he really does know O'Hagen. Shit. Just one degree of separation away from one of my heroes in Vietnam. Never forget that.

Once the decomposed noise intro shook the life out of most of the crowd and the soundboard guys, things settled down into an hour's worth of heavy downbeats with distorted and looped vocals from the pair and a healthy throng of young Viets throwing their hands up in the air and dancing emphatically. If I had had kids by now, they would have been mine. Very cool.

One small missed bit of subtlety was a rear projected video screen that ran looped phrases through the eyes of an illustrated woman's face. The passage I remember most, paraphrased of course, was, "The state is not an expression of your liberty, the state is an affront to your liberty". I'm not sure the band, and I'm absolutely sure not the crowd, understood the gravity of that statement in a communist country. Brilliant. Subversive. Thank you mice.

On the last song a crew of Vietnamese break-dancers, 16 years old at most, came up and put on a show in front of the stage. The band took notice and came back with an encore that let the local boys strut their stuff. Oh to be so young. But I could never dance worth a shit anyway. Thank you mice. You helped me remember and maybe showed a few new recruits, that all this stuff really does matter. It really does.

On the way home I was passed by a white stretch party Hummer marked Saigon Limo with some Viet dude inside pumping his fist to a pulsing beat. Where was he when the real party was happening? Oh how money fucks them up. The Mouse show was free.

Props to The Word magazine in Saigon for picking this up.

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