So let’s just pretend I made a clever joke about Napoleon invading and just skip to the point: Bonaparte, an electro rock'n'roll circus led by an inspired madman, is hitting San Francisco for the first time next week (after playing SXSW and Dim Mak Studios in LA).
A collective of musicians, designers, dancers, and freaks out of Berlin, Bonaparte has toured throughout Europe, Russia and Australia, gaining a reputation forits out-of-control live show. The only constant member is the black-eyed Swiss songwriter Tobias Jundt, but if videos are any indication the other members perform with a constant theatrical, trashy punk energy that proves they’re either committed or should be.
There’s no better introduction to the band than “3 Minutes in the Mind of Bonaparte,” which, appropriately, consists of Jundt asking-answering a stream-of-consciousness series of questions, free associating everyone from Bobby Layne/Mickey Mantle (“If I’d have known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself, my son.”) to Richard David Precht (“Who am I? – And if yes, how many?”), and maybe even himself (“If nothing lasts forever, say, can I be nothing?”).
Jundt almost perfectly captures the fun part of being in the throes of a schizo existential crisis, while backing up what he asserts on the vaudeville strutting “Rave Rave Rave” where he says “Words are my main obsession” – the man knows how to turn a phrase.
That video comes from the band's DVD, 0110111 - Quantum Physics & A Horseshoe, a showcase of not only Bonaparte’s musical side, but its collective ability to create a madcap live experience, aided by diva dancers and wildly inventive costumes that cross the sacrilegious with mundane, profane with fantastic, and baroque with straight broke.
Take, for example, the best tribute to technological dependency Devo never wrote, “Computer in Love.” While Jundt sings from the perspective of a PC – creepy, but apt lyrics like “you stare at me when you touch yourself” and “I’m your glory hole to the universe” – topless, leotard-ed, electrical-tape pastied dirty dancers writhe around with monitor heads.
It’s a bizarrely licentious display that could be termed surreal if the visual metaphor wasn’t also so god-damned dead-on. Whenever the band hits on a political or artistic agenda (and with "Anti Anti” and “Boycott Everything” they come close to manifesting a manifesto), it’s secondary. “You say Dada, I say it rhymes!” Jundt sings. Avowed hedonists, the primary goal is putting on a good show.
Of course, those videos feature a band in its home city, in front of a big audience of enthralled fans, and it wouldn’t be fair to expect that scale on Bonaparte’s first outing by the Bay. Accordingly, the band issues the following warning on its tour schedule:
“if you book us you DON'T really get 21 people and 12 disturbed animals and a real elephant because you wouldn't be ready for that, we'd need a house, a chef de cuisine, a gardener, a horse whisperer, a doctor, and a pool – in short an entire hotel...And also a huge old Rokoko theater to perform in. Since you don't have all of that... what you DO get is: a show with plus/minus 9 people from the collective risking their private and public lifes for you, dressed as animals or wurst and a loud concert.”
Still, sounds like a deal. Here’s one last video, recorded on a cell phone a couple days ago in NYC, to give you an idea of what they're currently working with.