by Vanessa Bell
Photos by Neya Ottonello
In London and New York the memory of those former meat repositories and empty shells of disused factories is fading fast, spaces long since remodeled into plush lofts and luxurious real estate. Buenos Aires still maintains a rustic charm however, with many of these spaces allowed to exist in a state of limbo. The IMPA, the location chosen to host Dietrich’s concert last Friday is testament to this, a monolithic industrial building in the middle of Almagro long used as an aluminum processing plant. To this day it continues to be used as a factory, although one run as a cooperative, its employees now manage it. By day a fully functioning factory, by night a cultural space rented to theater groups and musicians.
We walked down a corridor into the bowels of the building where a makeshift stage stood nestled between a complex, somewhat chaotic infrastructure of pipework and machinery, retired from duty but still proudly displaying its gauges. The light was dim and there was a penetrating smell of dampness and stale engine oil that immediately pricked the senses. It gave the impression of being in a borrowed space, not fit for purpose and yet at the same time utterly perfect, the vast interior offering an acoustic that resonated beautifully.
The opening act, Felix y los Clavos, looked like they had just graduated from a rock school of sorts. The lead singer carried an air of nonchalant self-importance, bare-chested with a swagger. He was wearing jeans and overalls with the legs trailing behind, an unconventional bright orange coat and tails. Swigging hard liquor from the bottle at regular intervals, he sat or stood as he sang, flanked by various synths and sharply dressed bandmates. Several of the songs were catchy and the singer's charisma and strong voice kept the momentum going, yet I couldn't help feeling I was living a bit of a Talking Heads hangover.
I was eager to see Dietrich, having enjoyed their performances in the past; I could only imagine how much they would have evolved in the 18 months since I'd last seen them play. Their musical artillery was impressive, the guitars, bass and drums enhanced by 3 synths and a laptop. It wasn't just for show either. They commanded not only a stage presence but a musical authority as well. The space only added to the progressive, sometimes epic sound they've adopted as their own, and indeed in Buenos Aires, there are few up and coming bands that consistently produce such a polished live performance. The distinctive thud thud percussive opening of 'Interlaken' was greeted with whoops of recognition from the crowd, and for me this track was indicative of how far they've come. The more spartan, stripped down original version of the song had been enhanced by staccato hand clapping and punctuated with a cowbell rhythm.
The energy between the members was palpable, dashing figures in military uniform, reminiscent of Kasabian's earlier sartorial choices, exchanging regular euphoric grins and gleeful yelps. Hernan Corera, keen to show off his musical dexterity, swapped his guitar for a bombo legüero at one point - typically used in Argentine folk music - which he pounded with gusto, his Peruvian hat's mohican crest bobbing along in syncopated time.
Many of their tracks had a slow burning quality to them, with build ups at times reminiscent of Explosions in the Sky, at others taking on elements of Pink Floyd's more introspective compositions. I sometimes felt like the space couldn't adequately contain their music, their sound reaching crescendos of dizzying heights that would not have sounded out of place in an open air stadium. This was perhaps the enduring impression I came away with, that it seems this band have set their sights beyond the heavily trodden Porteño circuit of bars and clubs, keen to set themselves apart from the local sound. Knowing Corera personally, he's made no secret of his desire for Dietrich to play London. If they continue to mature at this rate, there's nothing to say they won't.