Every Record I Own - Day 182: Can Radio Waves
I’m not gonna talk about Can much today. Instead, I want to talk about geography. I bought this LP about ten years ago at a little pop-up record shop at a squat in Leipzig, Germany called Zoro. It was packaged in the sleeve for Monster Movie, but instead I got a bootleg collection of Can rarities and outtakes. I was a little bummed, but Radio Waves contained “Turtles Have Short Legs”, so I can’t really complain.
Leipzig was in the Eastern Bloc during the era of the Berlin Wall. It was heavily bombed by Allied forces during WWII even though the city’s populace had initially been resistant to the Nazi regime. Like a lot of East Germany, economic recovery in Leipzig after the war was slow, and that sluggishness continued after the collapse of the Soviet Union. And like a lot of regions that lived under Soviet totalitarianism, there was a far-right backlash within the population. But Leipzig still had its radical roots, and not surprisingly, those radical roots fostered an amazing punk community.
The oldest venue in the city is Conne Island, which held it’s first show in 1991 with Gorilla Biscuits, Slapshot, and Quicksand. One of the most popular venues in the region these days is UT Connewitz, an old theater that hosts the annual Doom Over Leipzig festival every April. But my favorite venue is the squat Zoro. The venue is a little small for my band these days, but I’ll usually try to run over to Zoro to catch their late shows since it’s walkable from both Conne Island and UT. The squat is a multi-floor factory that has this amazing vibe of a post-apocalyptic communal utopia. Punks turnout up for whatever show is happening. Crust band? Perfect! Garage rock? Sure! Stoner metal. It’ll be packed. Doesn’t matter. The shows are cheap and people just wanna come and hang.
I bring all this up because I love the sense of community in Leipzig. I love that they have three amazing all venues within close proximity, and I love that music seems to be a crucial part of social life. When Can started playing, rock was still a foreign concept, but all these krautrock bands built something rooted in their communities. I would’ve loved to have been in Köln in the early ‘70s, just as I would have loved to have been New York in the late ‘70s, or DC in the early ‘80s, or San Francisco in the late ‘60s. Of course, geography has been a setback for punks in rural areas, and the beauty of the internet age is that it provides access to the underground and counterculture no matter where you live. But the downside is that I like the relationship between geography and music. I like regionality. And that seems to be disappearing.
I hope I don’t sound old here, but music used to be a more communal experience. Before the phonograph, music was something you only enjoyed communally. And even after the advent of recorded music, it was still something that felt very much a part of public life. Scenes popped up based on region. Scenes nowadays seem less about geography and more about genre. Music is something predominantly consumed on headphones or laptops. Artists breakout on Soundcloud or Bandcamp instead of perfecting their trade by playing around their hometown and developing a following based on their live show. And that phenomenon has it’s perks, especially if you live in the middle of nowhere.
But I prefer Leipzig.