Kunst!Rasen – Music & Memories by the Rhine

Katzenjammer (1 of 1)-8Aside  from the odd future resident of Beuel, this weekend will be a rather sad one for Bonn.  3SongsBonn looks back on what was, what might have been, and what hopefully will be in future, down by the Rhine.

I’m not a long-time resident of the City, but even I feel pangs of nostalgia for the old days in Bonn.  When everything was ‘Better’.  The days when you could cycle to Rolands Arch for a glass of Robert Weil’s best white and Bratwurst, or sit all evening with a glass of Riesling, a pretzel, and a wonderful view from Schaumburger Hof, or go to concerts on the Kunsthalle roof, or a free Saturday evening concert in front of Bonn Guildhall.   It’s all either gone or been replaced by something based on money rather than life-quality.

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A big welcome from/for Wolfgang Niedecken

Major concerts in Museumsplatz were amongst the ‘victims’ of course.  How could the City spend money meant for ‘Art’ on bringing Elton John or David Bowie to a few (thousand) ‘Untertarnen’?  The land has since been given back (to Canadian Indian tribesmen at present it appears) and the Music?  Well, thanks to a couple of people who still care, it hasn’t followed Don Mclean’s gloomy prediction and died.  Instead, in the hope of escaping the present blight striking business in Bonn, it  moved up the road a little to a field overlooking the Rhine in a place called ‘Gronau’.  Unfortunately, Gronau is a part of Bonn rather than a part of Mars and not hermetically sealed off from the former.   Still, initial reports were encouraging:  The local ‘General Anzeiger’ revealed that complaints about noise had been virtually non-existent – or at least virtually impossible to trace to an identifiable source.  Alleged noisy Kunst!Rasen gigs were often attributed to days and times when the only source of sound onstage would have been a stray owl roosting on the roof.

A pre-season press meeting had made clear from the start how important the local nature and people were to the scheme of things.  Martin Nötzel announced booths being moved away from old trees and giant containers being stacked where once Pattie Smith could look over stage left and wave to passing cargo barges.

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Magic by the Post Tower Light – Katzenjammer

The grand opening show of  2013 with Brings was a party affair.  I almost say ‘fancy dress’ only genuine Scots people would not be amused at such a description of the tartan hordes who descended.  Sans William Wallace though they were all well behaved and the only complaint I read about on Brings Facebook site was from a slightly disgruntled fan saying it wasn’t loud enough.

The same complaint emerged on numerous fan Facebook pages over the season, including that by BAP, whose appearance was a virtual ‘homegame’ for Wolfgang Niedecken (rather than a ‘genuine’ homegame as it was for Christian Blüm of Brings).  Two concerts down and already two cherished memories – Peter Brings being carried round over the heads of fans in a rubber dinghy, and Wolfgang Niedecken meeting  with walls of sound from the audience as they called back “Verdammp’ lang her!” and cheered his thank you’s for their well-wishes when it looked like the great man had missed his promised appearance here through ‘Act of God’.   It was  ‘Halv so Wild’ as it happily turned out though.

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Dampened in hair but not in spirit – Zaz

More cherished memories, this time of Zaz later in July:  an impish figure springing energetically about front of stage as the rainstorm blew in.  Rather than hiding back in the dry she was out front and showing the real trouper that she undoubtedly is.  Had the lady shouted out “Put your umbrellas away Bonn!” I’m sure every one of them would have come down in an instant.  If Blüm and Niedecken are local heroes then Isabelle Goffroy  is now an ‘adopted’ local hero at Kunst!rasen for sure.

Enthusiasm was centre of all the best concerts I experienced at the Kunst!Rasen grounds this year.  For me probably the best show of the year that I caught (and yes, admittedly I missed Crosby,Stills and Nash as well as the master, Santana and grand rocker Heino!) was that of Girl-wonders Katzenjammer.  The sun almost seemed eclipsed by Sol Heilo’s smile as she sat down on the drumstool to hammer out the opening salvo of an evening where  a heavily pregnant Marianne Sveen announced “So – I had sex!” and you knew this was a special evening.  It produced my favourite song of the Season too in the form of a fabulous acapello ‘Gods Great Dust Storm’.

Sol Heilo puts the 'oomph!' in Katzenjammer

Sol Heilo puts the ‘oomph!’ in Katzenjammer

I was looking forward to the Classic Rock Night but it turned out to be a mixed affair.  Triggerfinger gave one of the Seasons most explosive performances – No lights or action in particular, just a sound that said “We love playing, and if you enjoy listening it will be a great time for everyone” which it certainly was.  The lows were having no Roger Glover present for Deep Purple and a fragile looking Ian Gillan.  They were made up though by seeing the smile on Warren Hayne’s face as he joined Steve Morse on the chunky chords for ‘Smoke on the Water’.

I had doubts about seeing/hearing ‘Deichkind’ but am glad I finally took the plunge (and my Nikon) to the show.  I’m still not sure whether the music was a pleasure or not, but the visual spectacle of men flying around the stage or singing from giant barrels carried around the concert grounds  was something I am very glad not to have missed.

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Photographers delight – Deichkind

The last show I caught at Kunst!Rasen was that of the Beethoven Orchestra at a somewhat ill-fated picnic.  I remember being slightly pessimistic at the press conference when I heard this was allotted a time in September.  As it turned out the day before was a scorcher, the day after just wet, and the day of the ‘picnic’ slightly damp at times.  Musically however it was a sunny affair  – and a reminder that Kunst!Rasen can be something for everyone.  Certainly a similar concert next year would be very welcome – perhaps a month earlier though?!

Katie Melua was good, only I remember her so much better at Museumsplatz.  The seated audience didn’t really help and she didn’t look terribly pleased from the end of my camera lens during the obligatory 3 songs.  The same can be said three-fold for the B52’s who were clearly concerned about maintaining their 70’s lustre and made it virtually impossible to get decent concert pictures of them along the way – all totally unnecessary for a band whose enthusiasm would still put that of bands half their age to shame.

Captivating Katie Melua

Captivating Katie Melua

Writing about the B52’s reminds me of course that there was a ‘secondary’ stage this year for the first time: Kunst!Palast.  It all seemed rather grander when announced at the press conference – maybe it was grander over the course of the season.  I remember a magnificent opening show by Beth Hart but it seemed to take place in spite of rather than because of its surroundings.  My verdict: a great idea to bring smaller and mixed styles of entertainment but a bit more atmosphere would be nice.  I rather expected to smell elephants and see clowns when I entered the ‘Palace’.  Maybe a rename to ‘Kunst!Circus’ is favourable?  Sawdust not obligatory.

There was even a third stage this year in the form of ‘Kunst!Garten’ and this, to my mind anyway, was a masterstroke and huge success.  I couldn’t see everything that took place there without being camped in a tent outside Post Tower, so my memories are somewhat limited.  What I do remember with particular affection though are seeing a rainbow over the lake go unnoticed by a couple of hundred fans of local band ‘Deserted’ and a free show by the wonderfully colourful and talented Gabby Young and Other Animals which I would have happily paid good money to see gone home with a head full of great tunes.  A showcase afternoon in the sunshine featuring local young musicians under the theme of music made in England is also a fond memory that will take me through the cold wet Winter months – not to mention numerous evenings spent just sitting by the lake next to the cocktail bar with a cold beer.

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A crowded Kunst!Garten stage for Gabby Young and Band

I’m already looking forward to the return of the beer garden and it hasn’t at the time of writing been dismantled yet!  The same can be said of Kunst!Rasen, Kunst!Garten, and even, with a few modifications, Kunst!Palast.  A big THANK YOU! To messrs Ernst Ludwig Hartz and Martin Nötzel for making it happen and your dedication in the face of those for whom live music is a nuisance rather than a pleasure. Thank you for the Music!

Promoters Martin Nötzel &Ernst-Ludwig Hartz enjoy a deserved round of applause

Promoters Martin Nötzel &Ernst-Ludwig Hartz enjoy a deserved round of applause

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