Over The Weekend: Alexander Robotnick at Brooklyn Jazz Cafe

Alexander Robotnick
Brooklyn Jazz Café

August 13, 2010

Better than: seeing the bad guy from the Sonic the Hedgehog games in a live concert. Well, maybe.

Fresco has been putting on parties in Dallas for years, bringing to town legends of electronic music such as Larry Heard, Ron Trent, Theo Parrish (the list goes on).

So, naturally, they had a hand in bringing through Maurizio Dami, aka Alexander Robotnick, for the first stop in his US tour. In this case, the night was put together through a collaboration between Fresco and Axel Promotions.

Robotnick needs no introduction to many, but in this city, he's not what one would consider a well-known figure.

When he released "Problemes D'Amour" in 1983, the record immediately became influential in both the disco and nascent house scenes of New York and Chicago, as well as the dancefloors of Europe. He's credited by some as helping to invent the genre known as electro, and, even in some ways, acid house, through his pioneering use of the Roland TB-303 Bass Line synthesizer.

Robotnick's Friday the 13th DJ set was his first ever in Dallas--and the last-minute venue change to the Brooklyn Jazz Café ended up being the best part about the night.

Not taking place in the café area itself, but rather in the adjoining performance space just below, the event had all the darkness and warehouse-y feelings you could ask for. Also, it was big enough for the crowd--but not so big that the room felt empty.

The night was kicked off early by a set from Myles Francis, which was followed subsequently by Alvin Booth. Booth, a longtime staple of the Dallas house community and a regular performer at Fresco events, made sure to bring some classic records like Derrick May's "Strings of Life" (well, the Danny Krivit edit, at least), and played a clean and well-executed all-vinyl set. Booth's performance had underground dance music purists in mind, and he honored the past with his set, which ended up being rather ironic in light of Robotnick's performance that followed.

It's not that Robotnick didn't play old Italo hits like Charlie's "Spacerwoman" and Telex's "Moskow Diskow," and even some old Chicago acid like Mike Dunn; he did.

But, apart from some spurts of recognizable classics, his set consisted almost exclusively of pretty standard, unimaginative and unoriginal European dance music.

His all-Ableton laptop set began almost immediately with a rendition of "Problemes D'Amour," in which he sang live vocals and did his characteristic goofy dancing around that so charmed the audience. Afterward, however, something interesting began to happen. The unique and tasteful rhythms of his own track began to give way to sounds that were less tasteful and less unique.

For all the surprising minimal techno, tech house and even blog house sounds, though, Robotnick managed to keep changing up his style, never really keeping on the same tip for too long. The problem was that he kept going into different styles that didn't appeal to his fans. Those who came thinking he was going to dip heavily into the worlds of Italo disco, Italian electro a la Pigna and Nature records, disco classics and perhaps some classic house and techno, would leave disappointed with his selection.

But considering that he's been out of the electronic music game since the late '80s and picked it up again in 2003 and, really, is a 60-year-old man who has missed out on a lot of history, he still managed to do a fine job of working the crowd and being incredibly enthusiastic about his performance. He even played live keys and sang over some tracks from time to time, which is much more than one can say about most other laptop DJs.

In short, you have to give the guy credit. And, in the end, you can't really take anything away from him. Especially because, at the very end of the day, Robotnick finally allowed me--and the rest of the expectant crowd--to wet our whistles on some old-school Italo. And everyone seemed to enjoy that much.

Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias:
After interviewing him the day before, I expected Robotnick to play some of the music of the music we discussed in the interview (Marco Passarani, the west coast sound of The Hague). So I was let down when he played a set that would appeal to the electronic music-listening masses.

By The Way: That dude was 60, and dancing around like a maniac! I can't count how many times I heard people say they hope they're that badass at that age.

Random Note: The last, first and only time I've ever been at a venue that hosted jazz alongside electronic music was in Detroit--a place where one can expect such a thing. It was actually very refreshing to see this take place in Dallas.

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