Famous for 15 minutes? The music flew so thick and fast on Saturday at the Rheinpark that the biggest danger was having your set forgotten a half hour later. I am indeed envious of the heavy metal or local hero fans who could stay in one place for the day. For the rest of us who wanted a taste of everything it was a challenge – and for those I missed, I salute you and apologize. This year’s Rockaue, the second of its kind, was indeed a chameleon of a beast.
Heading down to the Rheinpark on Saturday I had attempted to make a shortlist of must- see acts. The problem was that everyone, short of headliners Culcha Candela, was to me an unknown quantity. Anyway, Let’s check the English-speakers first and Kelvin Jones was a must see. Not least because he is based in my hometown of Portsmouth, England. Will we finally have a music hero even more local than Fareham’s Joe Jackson? Then there’s metal band Heart of a Coward from Milton Keynes. That was about it really. So much for pre-planning… Think I’ll just go where the going takes me.
It’s a blazingly sunny day when I arrive and no sign of a rain cloud. Have the promoters made a pact with the devil? Will there be Blues? There IS Rock of the heavy metal variety and it’s the first stage to hit you when you enter the festival ground. Like last year it seems oddly at ease with the sunshine and blue skies. Rock and metal belong to dark skies and sweaty pubs with beer sucking your every footstep from the soggy floor around the bar. The band Sleepers are going down a storm despite the heat anyway. I make a note to return to the Rock n Heavy Stage when it gets darker but in the event only make it back to catch the excellently energetic Aachen trio Fjord. Metal edged rock that had a melodic punch, I can recommend giving them a listen – and they made for great photos too, lots of posing and dramatic faces. Certainly an early highlight.
Between my two hard n heavy visits was the set by my local hero Kelvin Jones and what an excellent set it was too. I never cease to be amazed by guys who can hold a large audience in thrall with just a Martin acoustic and a loop pedal. His best tune to date is ‘Call you Home’ and it gets an extended run-out today but my favorite was a bluesy cover of Aloe Blacc’s ‘I need a dollar’ “Come and say hello after the set” he said at the finish, which seemed easy enough at the time as he was standing on a stage alone. I never did find him to ask about the music – so local promoters, please book Kelvin Jones – he’s good, and Portsmouth needs a new hero after all these years, Charles Dickens is long dead after all.
The rest of my day was spent rushing from Mainstage to Local stage and back with an ever diminishing reserve of energy. Indeed, at one point I even ventured into the, for me, unknown territory known locally as ‘The Electronic Stage’. Normally I would avoid a stage emitting music that is devoid of a real musician – but boy that water hose playing down on the smiling faces below looked inviting. Both sanity, and a fear of writing off my Nikon under a deluge of water, prevailed though and I got back to the live musicians.
The Local Stage is somewhat curious in that I have the impression that a large proportion of the people there enter at the Rheinaue entrance and never venture further. Do they know there are other stages? Do they care? Does it matter? No, not really, because the local stage really is worth a day in itself. I caught up with Ju & Me who were last seen, by my eyes at least, supporting Blümchenknicker at the Harmonie this year. I also caught the Foggy Mountain Rockers who I have been meaning to see at that same Harmonie for some years now and always missing. Theirs is a great blend of semi-caricature involving that wonderful period when Rock n Roll was most likely to mean you were a Teddy Boy as opposed to a Mod. For that reason ‘Thank God I’m a Teddy Boy’ was a particular favourite of the evening. Back in my childhood the neighbours had a band just like this and it seemed like a relic of a bygone age even then, so it’s wonderful to find that there are people out there who still love both playing and hearing such music – and it’s great music too!
That would have been it for the Local Stage except that all afternoon I had noticed the giant poster and equally huge selection of T-shirts advertising Lord Bishop. The man himself was not to be overseen either. Mr Bishop is from New York and how can you not be tempted to stop by for some ‘Hendrixian Motörfunk’ as his website calls their music? It goes on to proclaim that “What is for sure is that sooner than later Lord Bishop Rocks will be rock music’s most well known and sought after pure rock trio in the history of the music world”. Add to that the fact that the drummers nickname is ‘The Bricklayer’ and how can you NOT find time to visit the Local Stage at 9.15 pm?
I’m back at the Main Stage waiting for the Main Event Culcha Candela and I realise I’ve yet to mention two previous visits here today. Actually, it’s three as I caught half a song from the promising Tonbandgerät who all looked very young or maybe that was because I was a long way from the stage when I heard them. They looked small anyway.
When I did get to the photopit I was just in time to catch a familiar face – that of Lord Mayor Ashok Sridharan. Not wishing to get political here but it was good to see Mr Sridharan a couple of hours later still listening to the music and obviously still keen to support his stance on making Bonn a fit place for live music again. The Lord Mayor was actually here to introduce Phillip Dittberner. The audience in front of him was largely young and female and more keen to see Mr Dittberner who delivered a good set and had a nice mix visually of Elvis meets Johnny Cash at twenty that meant he was on to a winner before he opened his mouth.
I also seized the opportunity to become even more familiar with the Baseball cap and rap brigade. Kenay had plenty of energy and proved to be a lively band that I enjoyed. OK Kid seemed to be a tad too serious for my liking but redeemed themselves nicely by a late in the set crowd surf just as I was getting bored.
Which ultimately leads me to the end of the musical evening with Culcha Candela. Lots of energetic running around the stage. Their name translates as ‘Hot Culture’ and theirs is a Multi-Culti hot pot of sounds with Pop and Politics all mixed together. A perfect blend to end a perfect day’s music in Bonn in fact.
I’m already looking forward to Rockaue 2017. Complaints are few. Music from the the Electronic Stage tended to bleed onto the Main Stage at times which was a pity given the quality of the music on the latter. It’s also a shame that the Local Stage doesn’t have a more prominent position given it’s popularity. Small things really when compared to the huge success of bringing 15000 people together in one place with an atmosphere of fun and relaxation. Not a drunk in sight despite the heat and good music as far as the ear could hear.