D.A.F. and Total Control delivered a Melbourne sucker punch with two heaving sets

D.A.F. and Total Control delivered a Melbourne sucker punch with two heaving sets

1 / 7
Words by Augustus Welby
Pics by Josh Braybrook

This was a significant night for more reasons than one.

“String up the cowards/String up the thieves.” Total Control’s Dan Stewart has a knack for making fiercely political statements that are malleable to the times. Capping off a week in which half of the nation has been on fire while the political establishment searched for new ways to avoid the subject of climate change, the Melbourne post-punk band asserted themselves as essential and unforgiving.

It was an expanded version of Total Control, fleshed out to suit the weight of the occasion. Along with an organ player helming the Town Hall’s four-storey high grand organ, two saxophonists and a violinist joined the regular quintet.

They opened with a piece specifically tailored to the organ, but it was otherwise just as much of a crusading rock show as the band’s early-day performances in Melbourne pubs the better part of a decade ago.

Songs from 2011’s Henge Beat and 2014’s Typical System dominated, but not for a second did it feel like a rehash of past glories. With a terrific light show and the hall rammed full, Total Control’s invocation of first-wave electropunk represented the strength of contemporary Melbourne.

Age will not wither D.A.F. vocalist Gabi Delgado-López. There wasn’t much extra-sensory trickery on display during the German duo’s set. Delgado-López sung and pranced around like rabid dog; Robert Görl played a rock drumkit and the band’s signature electronics blared through the Town Hall sound system. The sub-bass frequencies could’ve been felt in South Yarra.

Legendary British DJ John Peel called the German duo the “godfathers of techno”, however this title detracts somewhat from the pair’s preference for lyric-based songwriting. Their songs revolve around verses and choruses, many of them easily memorable despite everything being sung in Deutsch.

Hailing from Dusseldorf in West Germany, D.A.F. emerged in the late-‘70s with a conspicuously sexual-bent and an aim to innovate. They were anti-conformist and despite their name – which translates to German-American friendship – anti-America. D.A.F. were also widely successful, spending dozens of weeks in the German charts and being thoroughly embraced by the UK music press.

Songs from 1981’s back-to-back releases Alles Ist Gut and Gold und Liebe filled the setlist. For all of the driving, non-decorative electronic programming – which scarcely resembles the contemporaneous synth-pop of OMD or Tears For Fears – the majority of tracks carried an unwilted immediacy.

As a result, Delgado-López had no trouble whipping the Melbourne crowd into a frenzy, especially during the dictator-parodying ‘Der Mussolini’, and across multiple encores.

Melbourne Music Week is on until Sunday November 23. Grab tickets and find out more on the program via the MMW website.