Drummer Christian Blüm very wisely took a bicycle ride to the opening gig of Kunstrasen 2013. Following fears that the open air field would actually become an open air lake we had a glorious day of sunshine, and there was only one dinghy sailing across the Rheinaue Field. It contained Peter, one half of the brothers that made up this seasons openers Brings, and the ‘sea’ was one of hands. Thousands of them in fact as The KunstRasen Open Air Season 2013 got underway.
It was like one of those pseudo Science Fiction films of the fifties. The ones where everyone you meet is going in the same direction, and the closer you get to the ‘destination’ the more people there are – until you reach the spaceship/edge of the woods/monsters lair and find, well, whatever drew the masses. In the case of Fridays opening concert at Kunstrasen, you were hoping to ‘find’ Cologne Rockers Brings. But first you had to negotiate another 6,000 people all wanting to go through a half dozen gateways at once.
Having finally, camel like, thread myself through the eye of a needle (a gateway that gradually grew bigger yet strangely further away as time went on) I was inside the all new, all sparkling, Kunstrasen Open Air location. This year there is a short ‘corridor’ of seating and drinks booths facing not the stage, but the Rheinaue duck pond, from where you can sip a martini and see the people on the other side of the lake arriving to hear what you yourself will have paid money for – a concert. Reason enough, to my mind anyway, not to hang around this part of the arena but to turn the corner instead and head into the Kunstrasen grounds proper with a long walk down to the stage lined by every sort of food and drink temptation known to mankind (I recommend the Indian Curry at 4.50 Euros). Actually, not EVERY kind of drink known to mankind – I chanced to read irrate reviews by concert goers from Cologne this morning berating the absence of Gaffel Kölsch. Okay, some things are just TOO exotic, even for Kunstrasen.
This was expected to be a popular show and therefore, as last year, it had a ‘Front of Stage’ ticket barrier for tickets that cost the same as those behind the said barrier and which, as last year, caused a few comments born out of anger and confusion. You also needed to know well in advance if you wanted to use a toilet, It took me twenty minutes to get from the front section through the barrier into section two and through the crowd there and out. A few children’s balloons got popped along the way I’m sorry to say (there was a special offer for admitting children and another special offer for said children of free ear plugs. Certainly a nice touch by the organizers).
As it turned out, the organizers were actually first onstage this year. Ernst-Ludwig Hartz and Martin Nötzel were there to apologize for the late start. Actually it was barely 15 minutes late, which for the Justin Biebers and Shane MacGowans of this world is pretty much like starting ahead of time. So as it turned out we had ‘only’ two and three quarter hours of music from Brings – a set duration that would put 90 per cent of bands to shame.
Hand on heart I’m not too familiar with Brings music. I saw them do a short set at Münsterplatz a couple of years ago and they seemed enjoyable. A lightweight version of BAP maybe. Much of the bands appeal stems from the Karneval style,but if songs like ‘Super Geiler Zeit’ and ‘Poppe, Kaate, Danze’ are the meat of their set there is also some fine seasoning in the form of gentler numbers such as the Zara Leander classic ‘Nur Nicht Aus Liebe Weinen’ which is actually, for it’s time, quite radical in it’s cynicism: “Nur nicht aus Liebe Weinen, es gibt auf Erden nicht nur den einen” (Don’t cry over love, there is more than one person for you in this world). Damn the cynicism – I’m a sucker for a bit of accordion playing and this is the first live one I’ve heard since James Fearnley and the Pogues last year. All in all an excellent first two hours of music if you liked a good singalong. For my money though the show only fully came to life in ‘extra time’. Someone in dastardly fashion obviously sneaked behind the stage and twiddled a few important knobs because when the first notes went up for the first encore so had the volume by a goodly number of decibels. By this time I was at the back of the arena, and could suddenly see anxious parents dragging children off into the distance and ordering them in no uncertain terms to cover their ears for fear of permanent damage.
Maybe a few parents were also instructing their children to cover their eyes as Stephan Brings took the spotlight on the drum stand to do a very creditable impersonation of Marilyn Monroe, kilt swirling in the way that brought Joe DiMaggio to consternation. I can’t see King King’s Alan Nimmo taking up the trick though. It certainly wouldn’t have worked in the barroom of the Godorfer Burg.
The next bit of stage fun wouldn’t have worked at the local pub either. Peter Brings was embarking in a tiny rubber dinghy that took him across the front rows of the audience on a sea of hands. All the time singing ‘Bis Ans Meer’. I even tried to take a picture only my hands were shaking out of fear for his life – or maybe he came out blurred because HE was shaking? I will never know.
I do know though that after some seriously heavy riffing from Bonn local boy Harry Alfter that leaned very heavily into Deep Purple territory and was somewhat bizarrely played as background to a song in praise of Mothers everywhere ‘Mama Du Bist Wunderbar’. I have to admit my ‘Kölsch’ level is rather lacking so that I was unable to work out much of the lyrics thrown my way. I’m certain I heard “Wir sind ohne zweifel, lieber in der Eifel“ but other than that I can only remember the final lyric played out as glitter was blasted into the warm night air at 10pm – „Mach die Lichter aus“ sang Peter Brings to bring the first show of this years KunstRasen season to a close. If the weather continues to be kind (someone up there clearly likes Messrs Nötzel and Hartz) then we have some fine evenings ahead of us along the Rhine this Summer.