Weltschmerz. Schadenfreude. Gesamtkunstwerk. Seems like those Germans have a good word (a long word) for everything. Just as that country's language has trickled into the U.S. consciousness, so has German music had its influence. In fact, one component of Germany's musical hard-wiring has so penetrated American music that you'd be hard pressed to twirl the pop radio dial without hearing Kraftwerk's effect.
Heralded by rap giant Afrika Bambaataa as avatars of the hip hop sound, this cuddly techno foursome is credited by many with the creation of the heavy 4/4 backbeat. Bambaataa's song "Planet Rock"? That's Kraftwerk's "Trans-Europe Express," almost note for note. Indeed, the group was the first to popularize the metallic beat, using pure electronic precision to drive its first stateside hit, "Autobahn," a tune that spawned a thousand road trips. Kraftwerk parlayed this signature sound through the 1970s, developing its robotic image into the polymorphous The Man-Machine persona and ending the decade with Computer World. While supporting this last album, the quartet added a new act to its live shows: The four Übermenschen ventured into the crowd brandishing pocket calculators on which the audience could play along. The band had taken technology to its limits without sacrificing soul or shake.
Having recorded only intermittently since then, the primary members -- Ralf Hütter and Florian Schneider -- are back with a new sack of diodes in the shape of a single, "Aerodynamik," and the 2003 album Tour de France Soundtracks. Be one of the fortunate to see them on this tour, as they're only doing a handful of West Coast shows. Tune in at 8 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday at the Warfield, 982 Market (at Sixth Street), S.F. Admission is $35; call 346-6000 or visit www.cc.com.
-- Kevin Chanel
On a Mission
Want to be part of a super-sonic electronic sound installation? Dust off that old portable radio or badass boombox from back in the day, pop in some fresh juice, and tote it on down to the 2004 Yerba Buena Gardens Festival. Composers Chris Brown and Guillermo Galindo are staging a live musical event, in which city sounds are remixed with live spoken-word poetry and prerecorded ambient sounds from the Mission District, and all of it comes through the audience's speakers. Transmission Mission starts at 2 p.m. at Yerba Buena Gardens, 701 Mission (at Third Street), S.F. Admission is free; call 543-1718 or visit www.cbmuse.com/transmissions.
-- Karen Macklin
Moving On Up
As we wave goodbye to Spanganga -- closing April 30 -- Impossible Productions, the team known for bringing stage adaptations of Dr. Strangelove, The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, and The Twilight Zone to the venue, moves into new digs. Help pay for the migration by dropping some green at Impossible's "Moving Benefit." The evening includes uproarious performances from comedy troupe Uphill Both Ways, verbal dismantlers Attaboy and Burke, Japanese yodeling cowboy Toshio Hirano, stand-up comic Mike Spiegelman, and rock 'n' roll bartender Flash. The shindig starts at 8 p.m. at the Dark Room Theater, 2263 Mission (at 18th Street), S.F. Admission is $5-10; call 401-7987.
-- Michael Vavricek
"There were never any opinions we cared about but our own," said singer/guitarist Dante Adrian of his band the Starlite Desperation in a recent interview in OC Weekly. If that's not what you look for in a musician, it should be. In the group's hometown of Salinas, where agribusiness and violence are always in fashion, its gutbucket garage rock didn't go over too well. Now safely in L.A., the band and its no-bass sound are getting their due, with an EP called Violate a Sundae; catch SD as it supports Black Rebel Motorcycle Club and the Rapture at 8 p.m. at the Grand, 1300 Van Ness (at Sutter), S.F. Admission is $22.50; call 777-1421 or go to www.anotherplanetent.com.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser