Moderat Enthusiasm: German EDM at The Riviera Theatre

Moderat’s recent performance was high energy and chaotic in the best way.


Isadora Kron

[From left to right] Sebastian Szary, Sascha Ring (Aparat), and Gernot Bronsert.

By Sofia Hrycyszyn and Isadora Kron

With elegant gold moldings and gilded box seats, the architecture of Chicago’s Riviera Theater is almost always at odds with the music and lights on stage. This was especially true for the September 30 performance by Moderat, a German experimental electronic music group. The juxtaposition of the art performed on stage with the art on the walls started even before the music, with the crowd around us echoing the energy you’d expect from at an EDM concert: that is, a little chaotic and ready to let loose.

The people around us held conversations in many different languages, and the conversations we did understand got progressively wilder as the night progressed, starting with idle chat about busy work weeks and ending with a husband having to pull his drunk wife off another woman. Sofia seemed to be the only attendee without a yellow 21+ wristband, and apparently most people were enthusiastically using theirs.

When the floor was full of people and the lights dimmed, the band walked on stage to a round of applause, immediately picking it up with “Ghostmother.” This was followed by “A New Error,” their biggest song on Spotify with over 70 million streams. “A New Error,” a wordless six-minute recording, slowly builds, and while the repeated riff doesn’t change much during the song, you can feel the intensity increasing and changing with the introduction of low or high-pitched notes. Live, that evolving energy was reflected on the floor in shameless dancing. While people would often clear out their own little circle to move about freely, there was a sense of connection and community in moving without the judgment of the people around you.

Moderat is the early-2000s combination of Berlin-based Modeselektor (Gernot Bronsert and Sebastian Szary) and Apparat (Sascha Ring). Ring, the lead singer, wore a stylish jacket that was multicolored in an “unorganized tie-dye with dark undertones” fashion. He was the most dynamic performer, switching easily between his synthesizer, guitar, and microphone. He was flanked by Bronsert and Szary, heads bowed over complex instruments that are unidentifiable to the average person (dark and with many things to press). Both wore black jackets, smoothly turning from one part of their synthesizers to another.

The band ran through many songs off their 2022 album More D4ta. Their album and website is structured as a computer science acid trip. That theme was reflected on the screen behind the performers. Strings of nonsense letters would occasionally be replaced by flashes of a four-letter word: “fast,” “neon,” “love.” With all the titles of the new album being two four-letter words, each word on screen was half of a new track title, a nod to the “4” in “D4ta,” and quite a realization to have during the show.

For the best moment of the evening, Bronsert stepped off to use the “loo,” causing the music to stop and leaving Ring to freestyle. It was only then that Ring’s German accent was obvious. With the help of his huge smile, he immediately grabbed the audience’s attention. He introduced Szary with an exaggerated, “I have no idea what in the fucking hell he’s doing.” Just before Bronsert raced back on stage, Ring leaned back and said, “and then there’s me,” drawing out the last word and generating cheers and laughs from the crowd. Moderat’s whole performance was energetic and entertaining, but Bronsert’s exit gave Ring the opportunity to connect with the audience on a more personal and very genuine level, which is what made those couple of minutes, specifically, unforgettable.