Clues to the lurking presence of Lansing-Dreiden—theoretical authors of the evening’s art show and late-night concert, though they wouldn’t quite participate in either—were, pointedly, everywhere. At the gallery opening beforehand, tiny white triangle signatures hid alongside elemental penciled-in shapes, just across from a nearby white trapezoid; both were sly references to the geometric figure that graces the band’s cover art. Into the crowd somewhere blended the three or so phantom members of Lansing-Dreiden, evidently, making a spectacle out of not really being present at all.
Later, L-D Section II climbed onto an Annex stage, as carefully collaged and colored as the earlier art on the walls. On view: a three-piece, all-white backing band, along with two frontmen, both black, one clad in all white, the other in a white top and black bottom, holding black and white tambourines respectively. These five guys—and no one from Lansing-Dreiden proper—would take the audience’s gaze instead, paid and polished in the name of art to stand in for the music’s real creators.
The songs, off The Dividing Island, Lansing-Dreiden’s new record and the one certainty of the night (we were there to celebrate its release), cast their own difficult spell. Impossibly allusive, their grinding shimmer of a single, “A Line You Can Cross,” was a better cover of “Cruel Summer” than the one that shipped (Canadian) gold for Ace of Base; elsewhere, their New Order drums-and-keyboards wrecked Culture Club, the Fixx, or Roxy Music with the same twisted faith. Derivative to the point of originality, their music made Reagan-era familiar sonics strange.
So who was responsible for what? With the actual creators out of the frame, our attention was up for grabs; some took the opportunity to instead point cameras away from the stage and into the good-looking crowd; others wailed like the starstruck kids they used to be, hot for the eerily precise Milli Vanilli act worked by the two guys up front. Lansing-Dreiden gave commands from wherever, and the band onstage followed the script, but it sounded right anyway: Who could doubt that the sweat soaking the five white shirts onstage by the set’s end was real?