Day two of the Crossroads Festival in Bonn courtesy of Rockpalast and a calm sea after the storm that was Angelika Express yesterday. Today saw Dutch Band Mister & Mississippi together with Düsseldorf’s Stefan Honig onstage – what seemed like another ”chalk and cheese evening musically.
First thing to notice when I walked in the door of the Harmonie was that all the instruments for Mister & Mississippi were in a row right on the stage edge.
They lay great store in being an equal four-piece, which made me think of a recent Henrik Freischlader show with nothing front of stage and the band all hemmed in around the stage side and back. There’s also what looks like the footpedals of a church organ hooked up to the guitar – something tells me these guys (and girl) are going to be interesting…
Onstage, the band are indeed interesting. There’s something squeeky clean about their appearance, and when Samgar Jacobs thanks us for coming to the show he almost has the air of a Jehova’s Witness selling bibles. In the event he was selling music, and he certainly succeeded selling it to me. Mister & Mississippi started out as a project at Utrecht Music College with four musicians who wanted to play something a little different from the Rock/Pop that others were bringing to the College. What they came up with is something that leans quite heavily on the Folk/Pop of Fleet Foxes but has enough of it’s own style to have enabled the band to make a size-able mark on the music scene already. Their website refers to music that is ‘Calm, dynamic, experimental, folky, dreamy…’ and every word is true.
They have the audience quickly on their side, and even though they are already on the tip of the stage decide they want to get even closer – and perform a number actually in front of the stage. It’s simple, it’s haunting, and it’s also magic. Remember I concluded my review of day one with the hope of a ‘goosebump’ moment in the days to come? Well here it was already, I didn’t have to wait long!
They may be an ‘equal’ foursome but it’s Jacob’s and singer/percussionist, pianist,dulcimer player Maxime Barlay who catch the eye and the ear most. That’s not to say that the others don’t have anything to do. There is constant switching between instruments of a level that I haven’t seen since I caught Katzenjammer playing instrumental musical chairs at Kunst!Rasen last year. Haunting songs by a band that promises (and deserves) to be hugely successful.
For some reason I was expecting something rockier from Stefan Honig. I read somewhere that he had a Rockmusic background. It was something of a surprise then when the lights dimmed and a smallish man with round glasses stepped onto the stage with what looked like a Ukelele. He immediately caught the eye and held it too with a haunting opening number entitled ‘Leave Me Now’. No German language songs from the man from Düsseldorf but the lyrics were always excellent and moving. Excellent backing too from a young lady who changed instruments almost as often as Joe Bonamassa changes guitars.
It did all start to sound samey after a while though and I was hoping in vain for something up-tempo to put some light in the shade. It occurred to me that German sad songs, even when written in English, seem to lack that black humour that usually adds punch and spice to the English mother speaker variety. Undeniably beautiful moments in the songs though – ‘In My Drunken Head’ has something Phil Collinsy in it’s delivery for example. There is only so much sadness one can take though in an evening and by sets end I was at the bar drowning my sorrows in a cool beer. Maybe too many ‘goosebump’ moments for one evening? Hopefully Fridays gig will be played out in major keys.