First week of September 2023, Vienna’s iconic trip-hop/downtempo/deep house duo KRUDER & DORFMEISTER made their triumphant return to the United States with a coast-to coast mini-tour celebrating the 30th anniversary of this pioneering project. The short-yet-potent jaunt hit eight North American cities, punctuated by the pair’s virgin voyage to the Black Rock desert for a planned trio of DJ sets at a trifecta of Burning Man sound camps.
This forthcoming report/diary will contain copious details about how it all went down, from BRC to the Bay Area. A bit of a peek inside the music, the mud, and the abundance of feels that came with it all.
First, I’d like to briefly introduce Kruder & Dorfmeister with a Cliff Notes of their storied career, as well as offer a few personal reflections to better explain just what these special sorcerers mean to me, and thousands of others across generations and geography.
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In the late 1990’s, at about nineteen years young I was first introduced to the music of Kruder & Dorfmeister. Ross Kaufman, one of my oldest friends dating way back to summer camp – and among those chiefly responsible for shaping my earliest tastes and listening habits – turned me onto the dynamic duo one college summer. He did so by way of the time honored tradition: smoking herb, cranking new tunes, and letting me burn a CDR of the now-classic K&D Sessions.
When we were coming of age in the earlier part of the decade, this cat put me onto the best quality/most legendary Grateful Dead and Phish tapes; a year older than I, Ross was the first to come back from college with a select few new artists to check out. He was real hot on Fat Mama (Sir Joe Russo’s college freak-jazz jam band), as well as a whole new lane for me: downtempo electronic.
Behold the maestros: Kruder & Dorfmeister, hailing from Vienna, Austria.
Though I didn’t realize it at the time, this handoff of the K&D Sessions double cd set would be a shape-shifting development for me, like so many others the world over. In fact, one could posit that Peter Kruder & Richard Dorfmeister – aka K&D, are equally as iconic and influential to their global fanbase of three decades as either the Dead or Phish were stateside. If the testimonials on the heels of their most recent US run are to be believed, the reverence and admiration is certainly comparable.
Shortly after graduating college, in spring 2002 I eventually ventured westward, some garden variety searchin’ for the sound while Phish – at that time a near-blinding focus – were on a then-indefinite hiatus. My very first time to San Francisco, night one I picked up the city’s SF Weekly newspaper and noticed that the heroes themselves, Kruder & Dorfmeister, would be spinning that evening at chic-spot Galleria.
A novice at nightclubbing and brand-spanking new in town, these liberating two hours on the dancefloor were spent getting sweaty to the steezy sounds of K&D – just a hop, skip, and a jump away from the Haight-Ashbury, the historic hippie neighborhood (Mecca) that had initially lured me to the Bay. Suffice to say, Peter Kruder & Richard Dorfmeister had a sizable influence on your humble narrator’s electronic ears, movin’ feet, and nascent tastemaking alike.
Both men are accomplished producers and multi-instrumentalists; they met in 1991 while playing in various Vienna bands. The connection between the ambitious musical seekers was potent, early and often. Soon, techno took over the Austrian club scene, but Peter & Richard were drawn to more vibey, psychedelic, grown n’ sexy soundscapes.
Word is, Kruder & Dorfmeister were initially a slow burn in the electronic community, the music seemingly too downtempo for the European dancefloors of the day. The pair made their embryonic magic on early Akai samplers and primitive Atari computers, mad hatters mixing up elements of hip-hop, rare-groove, classic jazz, bossa nova, film noir, and more to create a cult following around the world.
They released a slew of stoney, jazzy beats and remixes that had made some minor waves, though none of them yet tidal. Debut self-published G-Stoned EP from 1993, then DJ-Kicks: Kruder & Dorfmeister – Studio !K7 –1996, each delivered further on their classy, dubby, understated aesthetics. The seminal K&D Sessions soon followed, and from there the fiery inferno was finally – and firmly – set ablaze.
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K&D were seen, heard, and felt everywhere. From high-end clothing boutiques in metropolitan hotspots, hipster vegan restaurants and boho coffee shops, college study hangs and the classic dorm room smoke sesh, the ooze of K&D chillout was nothing if not ubiquitous from Vienna to Tel Aviv, London to Berlin, Ibiza to Costa Rica, Brooklyn, Chicago, Miami, and San Francisco.
It was intelligent, it was dance music, this was without question an intoxicating bump. Kruder & Dorfmeister eventually established their DJ/producer duo as veritable pioneers of the rapidly-popular downtempo/lounge electronic music that would be creeping up everywhere as the decade wore on. In addition to headlining nightclubs on several continents, in 2001 K&D were invited to perform their sound art live & direct at the renowned Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland.
Eventually, their style got maybe too popular, and the scene somewhat derivative. Tastes changed, genres mutated, releases slowed to a halt, and K&D’s DJ sets were fewer and further between.
After many moons spent prioritizing other projects, Kruder & Dorfmeister leapt back into the global electronic music zeitgeist with 2020’s glorious return to the golden days, a full length LP 1995, sourced entirely from various dusty DAT tapes and smoked-out samples thought lost to the cutting room floor. The duo planned a US tour behind this comeback release, before the pandemic hit the whole world for a long, forgettable stretch and lucid dreams of debauched dancefloors were put on ice for a few years.
To close out a confounding summer 2023 here in the States, Austria’s classiest export Kruder & Dorfmeister would finally come back to the shores and cities of America; better yet, they’d kick things off with three throwdowns in the desert, no less. As such, the stage was set for a monumental return to a country where K&D remain beloved kings – by those seasoned (old?) enough to remember.
What had happened was…
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Kruder & Dorfmeister announced their 30th Anniversary US tour in the early part of the summer, so we knew they were heading back to the Bay in September at Midway SF. However, when the duo declared they’d (finally) be making their long-awaited virgin sojourn to Black Rock City for Burning Man, it was like a bomb went off for a certain cross-section of desert-oriented dance-music devotees.
My wife and I have both been to That Thing In The Desert several times over the past decade, most recently in in 2019. Yet to be totally transparent, we considered ourselves essentially priced-out of attending in 2023. The rising cost of tickets, plus today’s economic inflation with regard to the food, fuel, water, and random goods required to survive at Burning Man, coupled with our current respective employment situations, made all the signs seemingly read “no” nearly every which way we turned.
Or so we thought.
A peculiar late August surplus of usually-scarce Burning Man tickets changed both the market and the game; so did the idea of dancing to the delectable sounds of K&D under a Black Rock blue moon. Since the very beginning, their canonical releases continue to play a major role in scoring our romance, and all of Peter and Richard’s various projects – Tosca, or Peace Orchestra, and beyond – get plenty of burn in our crib to this day. Dinner dates at home, getting styley for a decadent night on the town, long drives, cozy cuddle puddles, chillout sessions, sexytime, and what have you: K&D is the way, always & in all ways.
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In a classic version of the ever-mystifying proverb “the Playa provides”, we were blessed with some extremely-discounted tickets to the Burn on Tuesday night; the event was already more than 48 hours underway, not our usual modus operandi. The ducats were furnished through a young woman I met as I wept uncontrollably at the Temple Burn my own virgin year in 2013. We’ve remained connected, and she came through rather huge. Equally crucial was the miracle’d “Vehicle Pass” via a Burner friend from back home in Philly, obtained by way of a classic Reno rendezvous. This was a key component which proved elusive for many, though $575 admission tickets were seemingly aplenty for merely a fraction of face value.
It felt somewhat cosmic the way it all came together so swimmingly, when a few weeks earlier this Animalia adventure seemed unattainable for us this year. Normally, before we make the journey out to Burning Man we will prepare over a month with an abundance of intention, but this iteration saw us throw a few things together inside of two days, and hit the road on Thursday morning to enjoy the final 100 hours on the Playa.
Again, or so we thought.
After a six-hour drive from Oakland to the Nevada desert (with a stop in Reno for said pass), we finally made our way into Black Rock City just as the sun was setting Thursday night Aug. 31st. As foreboding sprinkles of rain fell on our heads – a harbinger of headaches to come, we soon found our squad – the Abraxas dragon art-car camp.
With a furious pace and unwavering determination, my wife and I set up the basics of our makeshift midweek lodging situation – essentially staking a large shift-pod with only a full-sized mattress pad on a cot and a throw rug inside. We quickly donned some funky desert duds and got ourselves correct, then hopped on glow’d-up beach cruisers and set out to find the Opulent Temple party.
The K&D set was hosted at a huge sound camp – Sonic Soul Tribe, located way down on the 3:00 side of the Esplanade, not far from where we’d be calling home for the forthcoming Mudpacolypse. This being Burning Man and us having just showed up, we couldn’t help but repeatedly stop and admire the gluttony of Big Art everywhere. It took us a little longer than we thought to descend upon the right soundcamp where K&D were playing, though soon we found the bacchanalia in question and the place was absolutely going off.
Upon arrival about ten minutes into their set, K&D looked to be fully ensconced/enveloped in Burning Man garb and spirit, two old pals sprinkled with a thin-layer of playa dust and feeling ageless on the wheels of steel. Peter & Richard were playing loose and limber to what looked like hundreds, if not over a thousand, hyphy-revelers dancing themselves euphoric as we approached the stroke of midnight in various states of (un)dress, bright lights, and intoxication. I saw scantily-clad dancers, a sea of neon blinkies, and even more sets of teeth. The scene was electric, straight out of a PLUR fairy-tale, all the best parts of Burning Man dancefloor energy, with zero percent of the see-and-be-seen pretension that often infects the house music hangs on Playa.
It felt – in a word – like Home. Almost immediately. For me, my wife, and clearly the Burning Man rookies of the year, too.
The Thursday night nocturnal transmission was right on time, the duo eschewing their trademark downtempo classics for an evening excursion chock-full of fatback, four-on-the-floor deep house bliss. All of it delivered with unrelenting mosaic thump and the patented, K&D grown n’ sexy twist. Peter & Richard, already several days initiated into their first Burn ritual, took turns unleashing reimagined hits and scorching remixes that touched on multiple eras and generations.
And the natives were restless.
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Amidst the freewheeling fireworks, when K&D uncorked Atmos Blaq’s ethereal remix of beatsbyhand and Kali Mija’s cover of Crystal Waters’ timeless anthem “Gypsy Woman” … talk about a vibe! The crucial cut hit the spot like a fistful of Mitsubishis, dealing pure ecstacy and riding an infectious groove. Other highlights for us included Derun‘s sensual, slow-house edit of Chris Isaak’s eternally delicate “Wicked Game”, and Marãez‘ terrifically-torrid take on INXS’s searing “Need You Tonight”.
Thievery Corporation general Rob Garza could be spied “gettin’ his burningman on” with the throngs of festively-adorned revelers that flanked K&D on each side of the raised DJ booth. For about an hour & a half, all was right in our little corner of the kaleidoscopic Black Rock City universe.
Just a few hours later, around 5:30am Kruder & Dorfmeister would play their very first “sunrise set”, at legendary sound camp DISTRIKT, no less. Usually renowned for their marathon matinees that often feature the finest in deep-house and playa tech DJs throwing down from lunchtime through sunset; to welcome the mighty K&D to BRC, DISTRIKT was hosting their very first “sunrise set” to boot. The stage and sitiuation was perfectly aligned for a magical, history-making morning spent landing spaceships way uptown.
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In a stroke of hilarious irony, my wife & I got caught up “doing burningman”, and somehow missed the sunrise set because we were esconced in the moment, freely frolicking with old friends on Abraxas deep playa. Be Here Now, or something like that. Despite the fact that the lure of experiencing the royalty of K&D just as the sun came up over the desert horizon was quite literally what motivated us to make our way back to Black Rock City, The Man had other plans for us, & we’d already surrendered to the flow long ago.
Fret not, dearly beloveds, for I found us a Johnny-on-the-spot who made it to the dance.
After we’d briefly linked and boogied at the sprawling Opulent Temple x Sonic Soul Tribe shindig, Chris Dietrich – a Philly-based music friend and longtime K&D fan participating in his first Burn with his wife – played through and made his way to DISTRIKT’s debut morning soiree. He was kind enough to file this report from the dusty scene at dawn.
“Fast forward 5 hours later after finding our way across the Playa in yet another dust storm, I’m making the early morning trek to the outer west corner of the city, to Distrikt at 10:00 and K (top of the red lineup image below) to catch a rare sunrise set. I had made the trip twice already due to miscommunication and misreading of schedules. My friends were frustrated and bagged the ordeal thinking that it would be “just another house set.”
Finally the music started and they lead with my favorite song!… and then the power cuts out. Doh! A few seconds later, they’re back on just as a wicked dust storm kicks up and everyone has to hunker down against the whirling sand. Sight and color turn to white as “Bug Powder Dust” kicks into high (tr)hip hop gear. I’m done already. The VERY song I really really wanted to hear in a dust storm no less.
After that lyrical treat, they settled back down into a trancy vibe that went until sunrise, ramping up through some disco, some more jazzy layering of unknown origin, some older tunes like Everything But the Girl’s “Missing” (Like the deserts miss the rain!), and the best trance spins I’ve experienced to date.
My friend Jack magically appears around 6:30am and we keep swaying until 8. After the show, I got to speak with both artists before they left, in deep bow of gratitude to their longevity and beautiful proximity at last. Exhausted dancing to K&D in a dust storm as the sun begins to rise over the Nevada Desert. Perfection.”
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Then, as Chris mentioned, came the rains. As in downpours. With that soon came the mud, which swiftly turned to quicksand.
Word is the playa – in essence a dried-up lake bed in the desert – endured two months of rain inside of two days at Burning Man, after a hurricane swept through the same area during Build Week ten days earlier. All of this water and sludge with tens of thousands of burners and their copious amounts of stuff (& sh*t) onsite.
We were relegated to spinning playlists in our shift-pod for the better part of two days as we waited out the passing storms. No doubt a bummer, but not exactly the disaster it was protrayed to the rest of the world.
It was, without question, something of a clusterf*ck. Yet nothing akin to the Lord Of The Flies-like media coverage that proliferated on the interwebs and television news, preposterously-hyperbolic accounts and made-up catastrophes that sent many of our families into profound worry and emotional tailspins back in the default world. Rest assured, for every Chris Rock or Diplo embellished tale of woe, there were tens-of-thousands of resilient, village-minded burners calling audibles, helping neighbors, and making some mighty tasty lemonade, too.
That said, make no mistake: Mother Nature made herself heard loud n’ clear – multiple times in the desert, as well as all over the world – with much graver consequences already. It would behoove us as burners – and humans – to take note, & respond/react accordingly. THE CLIMATE EMERGENCY IS REAL.
In a simple twist of fate, amid the post-storm chaos of Saturday afternoon, I had the luck of randomly making the acquaintance of Peter Anderson, owner/operator of the ETP Agency, which books electronic music artists and tours here in the US. Peter was responsible for bringing Kruder & Dorfmeister to the US for their 30th Anniversary jaunt, and to the Burn for their long-awaited Black Rock City debut, along with numerous other artists on their roster. What are the chances we’d serendipitously meet this dude, out of fifty thousand people on Playa?
This fella was understandably in a bit of a midday daze, surveying the scene with a long face and much dread. With K&D’s third and final set rained out, the roads and gate closed in and out of Burning Man, and more bad weather on the way, Peter was clearly stressed about the reality of his surroundings, with looming tours and talent flights seemingly in great jeopardy.
There’s certainly a Burning Man lesson – if not several – to be taught here. Yet I erred on the side of caution. And compassion. Kept the chat light on the surface.
As strange – yet mostly-positive – post-apocalyptic vibes permeated the rapidly-dilapidating Playa, dumbfounded burners could be seen sloshing around in various states of intoxication and emotion. I took a moment to try and empathize with Peter’s default world concerns, to reassure him that the pendulum would indeed eventually swing back in the other direction, the gates would open, his people would get where they needed to be goin’.
The Playa, after all, provides.
Before we parted company, I made certain to thank Mr. Anderson profusely for delivering K&D to the Burn after all these years, and explained how sacred and special Thursday night’s dancefloor explosion really was. Then, I expressed gratitude for ETP Agency booking the pair back in the Bay Area the following weekend (Saturday, Sept.9th) at Midway SF for a post-Playa decompression party with their old-friends Thievery Corporation.
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Exactly one week later.
On that particular late-summer’s evening, let it be known that your humble narrator was – by definition – comin’ in hot. After an extended couple of days in Black Rock City – The Man was finally burned on Monday night (instead of the customary Saturday), we departed the desert Tuesday afternoon and eventually got back to our Oakland home in the wee hours on Wednesday just before dawn.
The “decompression session” would have to wait a few days, as early Thursday morning I snapped back to reality, hopped a plane to Utah (there goes gravity?) for the second annual Park City Song Summit. While Peter & Richard blessed up the Fonda Theater in LA, I spent 2.5 days blanketing PCSS 2023 in the capacity of journalist, before flying back to Oakland late afternoon Saturday. Soon rollin’ on chrome back over the Bay Bridge just in time to catch the mighty K&D at Midway SF for Permission to Land: Magnetic Moon. They were scheduled to hit the stage at the stroke of 9pm PST.
Arriving just as Kruder & Dorfmeister assumed their customary throne atop the decks, I strode into a fully-packed main room with all the swagger I could summon after the whirlwind dozen days and disco desert nights that had preceded this moment. It took about three songs or so to navigate through the dank, sweaty, dimly-lit warehouse, primarily populated by a plethora of sharply-dressed, uber-chatty scenesters and awestruck gawkers. Eventually I would ferret out a sliver of space where some dancers appeared to be properly getting down, situated by a curiously-placed circular file, adjacent to the raised soundboard at the rear of the room.
Here one could spy the lion’s share of Thievery Corporation band members seated behind the FOH engineer, taking in the majesty of K&D together as a team. Later, during their lengthy, hypnotic live band set that followed, moments before busting out TC deep cut “Shaolin Satellite” (found on Kruder & Dorfmeister’s 1996 DJ Kicks mixtape compilation), Rob Garza took a few moments to wax nostalgic about the OG roots between the camps that can be traced back to Miami’s seminal Winter Music Conference in 1996.
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Safe to say, I was rewarded rather mightily for the extra effort I employed to get my ass back from Utah for this show. As was everybody else in the capacity crowd that had the good sense to turn out in droves and fete these Vienna kings of cool in bombastic Bay Area style.
Indeed, Kruder & Dorfmeister proceeded to unspool a veritable selectah seance of sorts, among the finest electronic music sets this writer has ever had the privilege to enjoy. Piloting an otherwordly, 100-minute excursion through sexy deep-house, smoked-out trip-hop, scintillating soulful beats, dreamstate drum & bass, and their trademark libidinous downtempo, K&D delivered the goods with verve and gusto. Unequivocally a masterclass in DJing, the top-tier of tastemaking, a fantastic voyage of the highest order.
As for the selections themselves, they were beyond solid – absolutely mint from front to back. No skips, to borrow a parlance of today. The beginning of the set leaned hard into funky deep house, joints to get the room movin’ and groovin’ before the duo tucked into an extended section of sublime, woozy cuts – “Johnson“, “Dope”, “White Widow”, all culled from their 2020 comeback record, 1995.
The energy shifted back to overdrive with a furious run of frenetic drum & bass and jungle breaks. The Bryson & Pola edit of Adam F’s timeless dnb anthem “Circles” nearly started a five-alarm fire in the main room; the sensual, soul-stirring sounds of Netsky‘s “Everybody Loves the Sunshine”, an emotional reimagining of Roy Ayers’ generation-defining chestnut, had the entire room levitating. This drum & bass portion of the K&D journey provided your humble narrator with something akin to an out-of-body experience on the dancefloor.
Halfway to everywhere, K&D shifted gears back into more four-on-the-floor untz, drizzled with their sauntering sauce. No matter what US city Peter & Richard found themselves in, the duo blew minds by peeling off an assortment of unrepentent bangers: their own steamy remix of Elvis Presley‘s “Fever”, Shiba San‘s lava-like (unreleased) edit of Hugel & BLOND:ISH track “Tra Tra”, Trentemøller’s psychedelic-house blend of Bruce Springsteen‘s “State Trooper“, found on 1982’s somber Nebraska LP, another romp through the scalding “Gypsy Woman” cover, a terrific tweak of The Doors’ haunting “Riders on the Storm”,among other choice blends, remixes and edits galore.
The crates remain ridiculously deep.
footage from Boston 9/15
Large projection-mapping screens flanked the DJ table and illuminated the dancefloor. Visual artist Jasha Suess meticulously-tailored a career-spanning story-arc through nostalgic imagery that washed over Peter, Richard, and the teeming massive. The designer incorporated both natural and digitally altered elements; the visuals mutated quickly, but within the mature, reflective montages one could pick up on numerous themes and memories: including (but not limited to) the G-Stone Records logo, portraits of the duo from the G-Stoned EP cover thirty years ago, various snapshots of yesteryear juxtaposed with minimalist geometric designs, stark colors and shadows.
Peter & Richard’s onscreen eyes and smiles would humorously (and ominously) move around in real time, as the duo revealed classic chestnuts from their celebrated seminal releases. The footage was neither overly-psychedelic nor particularly provocative, but it was classy-as-f*ck, par for the K&D course. A welcome departure from the sensory-overload styles that define so many contemporary VJs tasked with accompanying the music in nightclubs and at festivals.
To bring it on home, Kruder & Dormeister drove the wayback machine into the bosom of the glory days of the 1990’s. They left few G-stones unturned as the duo reached for our collective emotional jugular. From the first few notes, the patented hazy shades of “High Noon” ushered in a monumental nostalgia trip and an avalanche of feels; thirty magical minutes spent back burrowing through my 20’s, this portion of the peformance alone was well worth the price of admission.
Homeward bound, K&D continued with the hoo-ride and the haymakers, all mined from the landmark K&D Sessions: the Blaxploitation funk and Herculean head-nod of Aphrodelics – Rollin On Chrome (K&D Wild Motherfucker Dub), the rough-rough styles of Bomb the Bass‘s “Bug Powder Dust”, the dubby, Fender Rhodes-drenched “Sofa Rockers” by Sofa Surfers , the meditative bossa nova of Roni Size “Heroes” and Trüby Trio‘s “Donaueschingen”, and the aural eroticism of Lamb’s “Trans Fatty Acid”.
By the time the pair procured two of my all-time favorite tracks near the tail end of their set, I was already well-overcome with joy and gratitude. K&D’s scintillating drum & bass remix of Count Basic‘s “Speechless” never fails, an appropriately-named number that had us gasping for our collective breath as we danced our cares, minds, (and any remaining mud from the Playa) into the stars. Crying beneath the moonshades, dancing with nary a care, basking in the glory like nobody was watching.
The haunting, melancholic baritone of the great David Gahan soon filled the room; the Depeche Mode vocalist’s domineering drone froze me in my tracks. Deftly underscored by more mininalist Rhodes, a bulbous, brooding bassline, obtuse guitar riff, and K&D’s trademark opiate-miasma; elemental components that power an ethereal re-creation of Depeche Mode’s “Useless”. The sum of these parts detonate a nuclear-level feels-bomb just before we disembark, punctuating an evening brimming with reverence and energy that will forever be echoing in my mind.
Give Thanks for Kruder & Dorfmeister. Gentlemen, here’s to thirty more years.
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