Attendance Expressed, Tales to Tell

Director Ludwig Mies van der Rohe’s Bernau-based Bauhaus School was pressured to close in 1933—un-German thought some homely Nazis—after it had already existed in Weimar under Walter Gropius from 1919 and in Dessau from 1925 under Gropius and then Hannes Meyer until 1930. A short run for one of the most renown schools of art and architecture. Already numerous German Jewish architects had fled to the British Mandate of Palestine, and ended up providing Tel Aviv and its White City with the world’s largest concentration of  International Style buildings. Mies moved to Chicago. While some physicists wouldn’t agree, there’s a truism that nothing lasts forever. Alas, that thinking includes schools and styles, cities and countries, illusions too.

Maybe best to get out for the experience while it’s hot, or even still rolling forward and willing to perform. That was the thinking around an attempt to catch the special graveness of Love and Rockets last Wednesday, June 7th, despite them playing the Royal Oak Music Theatre in Michigan and me living four hundred kilometres away in Toronto. Royal Oak, outside Detroit, was the nearest their 2023 North American tour would reach. There was Seattle for Vancouver.

Likely it means something that neither Canadian city could not attract a show despite regular listings among the all-time top ten places to be. Is someone lying? Or, is it that neither climate nor nightly entertainment factor among the criteria? The vibe soured fast with the pseudo pandemic and all its manipulation. We’ll ponder while grooving on the group’s song “An American Dream”.

Such a heavy sound yet Daniel Ash, David J and Kevin Haskins are still derivative of something else. The gothic musical group Bauhaus 1919 formed in 1978 in Northampton, England and a year later released their debut single “Bela Lugosi’s Dead” after supposedly recording it live in one take. The song enriched the sexiest of 1983 horror films, The Hunger, staring superstar David Bowie with actresses Catherine Deneuve and Susan Sarandon, and darkened the ether since.

For an alien minority of Generation X, the Love and Rockets trio who produced five Bauhaus albums with lead vocalist Peter Murphy, in addition to another seven without, were emblematic. For me too; in my case the genre was more consistent with the first half of my secondary school years, with the high fashion concerns of the colonizers, observations at gay night clubs, even genuine bloodlust from the local vampire drinking her donor’s serum. There was a clear second half break away, which bothered some friends, for an exploration of different narratives in vogue and more consistent with my African-American ancestry. Ironically, this reflected my Irish mother’s forthcoming, mysterious disappearance to find her fun and my resulting move to Black father’s house, far away toward the other side of the province, for additional chaperoning while completing a high school degree. The 1990s were different. Hurrah for the dark side.

Some thirty years later if there was the opportunity to bask in the Haskins and Ash’s light play, to receive their frequencies one more time, I was going to take it. Very little was going to deprive me of this later day adventure. A first ever psychotic break manifesting two days earlier was not going to accomplish the feat. Doctors determined I wasn’t crazy, just cramming in more adulting than usual. Free to go home.

Retirement strategies that could be learned the next day with RBC Dominion Securities weren’t either. And this investor conference might have. “Are you flying or driving” to Detroit, asked an interesting suit who may yet become my financial advisor. With some of the GTA’s wealthiest in attendance, I could have mistaken myself as special, as the bank fed us designer cocktails, pretty sushi and yummy desserts. But that artfulness wore off when Jim Allworth’s reassuring lines were silent on my concerns why so many Canucks are experiencing increasing difficulties grocery shopping, call it food inflation or an approaching end of a self-supporting working class in the Great White North. That anxiety likely wouldn’t have connected, as most of the crowd mingled. I took notes and counted my blessings for the invitation.

“I hope they play lots from Express,” texted stylish Michael, now an Executive Director at a Montreal gallery, but who in our youth introduced me to the group, a bunch of other alternative sounds, including other Bauhaus spinoffs Tones on Tail and Dali’s Car, not to mention connecting me with my first offer of physical love. So many gifts. There were six Express songs from the CD release. Lots indeed.

Three decades earlier Michael and I, accompanied by the blue-haired Alexandra, rode an intercity bus from London, Ontario to a much less congested Toronto along a much less congested Highway 401 for a Murphy show at the Masonic Temple following the 1989 release of solo album Deep, considered his peak absent the other original three. We missed the last bus out and camped on the floor of the Edward Street Coach Terminal until morning. A decade ago two girl friends and I saw a post-peak Murphy at Buffalo, New York’s Town Ballroom. Far be it from me to disparage Peter John Joseph for either aging or because his rehab later cut short what could have been more Bauhaus performances. Myself, I slept plastered in the backseat for the ride home to Toronto. Alcohol is poison. Driving to Detroit partway through the third millennium’s third decade was noticeably rougher than the journey ten years earlier to Buffalo.

What’s happening with the country’s crumbling infrastructure is a good question, just as you will wonder what’s happening to your own equipment while aging. Not only did I catch Love and Rockets, and the Godfather of Goth twice, I remember seeing the original four at Toronto’s Koolhaus venue in 2005. My longtime fiancé is not so sure, isn’t so wretched about the memory loss. It was the year after we purchased a side-split in Scarborough’s Guildwood, prior to 300 percent of house inflation. A rushed library school love affair it was. She was driving off to one of Toronto Public Library’s branches everyday while I walked to the GO Train for the first leg of my trek downtown to a telecom employer’s corporate information centre. But wow, did we sell too soon! As sharp as her mind is, I’m willing to bet this was a real event for us. I distinctly remember the evening, recall parking the Mazda near the waterfront, can still see the white light streaking through haze pumped out of fog machines. Murphy was making a habit of hanging upside for other “Near The Atmosphere” tour performances. Whether she forgets or I imagine, all is completely normal. Human creations like memories and Canada fade.


I Feel Speed, No Big Deal, Kundalini Express, The Dog-End of a Day Gone By, Judgement Day, Haunted When the Minutes Drag, An American Dream, No New Tale to Tell, So Alive, Deep Deep Down, My Dark Twin, The Light, Mirror People, Yin and Yang (The Flowerpot Man)


Holiday on the Moon, Love Me, Ball of Confusion (That’s What the World Is Today)