When I left Spirit Square Wednesday night, my face hurt. If there’s one show I’d recommend taking a chance on it’s Die Roten Punkte’s comic concert running Thursday through Sunday at Duke Energy Theater. I felt the same way when I saw them at Booth Playhouse in 2010. For music fans, even those who don’t care that much for standup or sketch comedy, it is ridiculously funny. I go to movies and watch sitcoms and can count on one hand the times I laugh out loud. At this show, I completely lost track of the times I heard my husband (who reserves his own tearstained giggle fits for the rare “South Park” and “Portlandia” episode) chuckling loudly beside me. The entire crowd was in fits over Astrid and Otto Rot’s on stage antics. A few were even playfully heckled by the band for arriving late.
Astrid and Otto - orphaned siblings whose parents were either hit by a train (more likely) or eaten by a lion (a story young Otto seemed to prefer because it’s less gruesome?) ran away from their abusive relatives and started a rock band in the city. They wrote a mini rock opera about the experience. The show is presented as a regular concert with the Rots playing child-size instruments that look small enough for my three-year-old to comfortably play. The songs are funny enough. The opener is about a vegetarian dinosaur that’s force to flip burgers at a fast food joint. Another is a double entendre heavy come-on from sister Astrid that features physical comedy, audience interaction, and seems to go on and on causing Otto to quip, “Wasn’t that a quick one?” But it's their banter that really takes the show to another level.
The pair snipe and poke fun at each other, revisit their tragicomic backstory, and bicker about song meanings, non-rock n’ roll behavior, and Astrid’s drug rehab. But what’s different about this run of shows is the subject of their new album and tour is "Kunst Rock" or art rock, which is a topic that’s ripe for lampooning.
Otto worships at the church of Brian Eno. He sings an ode to his portable banana protector (the Velvet Underground/Andy Warhol-like t-shirts they’re selling would make an inspired gift to the record geek or indie rock snob in your life). But it’s the “Untitled” track - an over-the-top live looping experiment that includes a bit of audience participation - that really gives modern music a good razzing. It may seem like a joke, but I’ve actually interviewed bands that sampled pages turning and water running.
It may appear a train wreck, but it’s a calculated one which has received rave reviews at international arts and culture festivals. Their sibling rivalry and interplay is actually very realistic, even if the circumstances of their relationship falling apart on stage seem fantastical. She’s bossy and slutty. He’s naïve and innocent.
People might miss out on the show because it’s hard to know when you see their painted faces and black and red costumes just what you’re in for. Is it a rock concert? A comedy? A musical? A play? It's all of that, but it rarely seems staged. You can forget that maybe these are actually Australians riffing on rock n' roll cliches.
There are plenty of clips online to encourage (or discourage) further investigation. Be aware - there's a bit of profanity and suggestive subject matter in the live show. But you can check out "Ich Bin Nicht Ein Roboter (I am a Lion)," "Rock Bang!," "Burger Store Dinosaur," and "Bananahaus" on YouTube.