If you’re a promoter looking to bring in a good crowd in the Cologne/Bonn area there are not too many certainties outside of the Rolling Stones. Two ‘safe’ crowd pullers though in the Pop/Rock genres are BAP and Brings. Both have graced the stage here at Kunst!Rasen before and will again I’m sure as long as there is a stage here to grace. Tonight it was the turn of the latter of these local giants Brings to provide the magic (and the masses with a crowd of 7000+). A colourful evening was certain to be had by all, both on and off the stage.
For those readers not born and raised in the region a bit of history needs filling in here. The band Brings centres around brothers Peter Brings on vocals and Stephan Brings on guitar. They were formed in 1991 and have made a name locally through a mix of Kölsch language pop songs which were perfect to put them amongst the top performers at Karneval time. Nationwide hit singles such as ‘Superjeile Zick’ have since given them a wider fan base but the brothers and their excellent band have stayed true to Cologne and Bonn. Oh, and official band attire features Royal Tartan tie (Peter) and Royal Tartan kilt (Stephan). Were I one day fortunate enough to get an interview with the band my first question would be “Why the tartan?” but for now that must remain a mystery. What isn’t a mystery by 10 pm is why the band is so popular.
It’s now 7 pm, and on the dot guitarist Harry Alfter appears onstage. Always good for a surprise, Brings have been known to test out brand new songs here at Kunst!Rasen. This evenings ‘surprise’ though was rather old – a stirring version of Beethoven’s ‘Moonshine Sonata’ complete with smiling string quartet. Hopefully we will see more such marriages of musical epochs in the coming months to bring the music of Bonn’s most famus son into the life-blood of the not so classically inspired. Certainly the cheers at the end of this number bode well for a successful ‘Klassik!Piknik’ concert here on July 2.
So it was that Brings the band came onstage some ten minutes after the scheduled start of their show. Before anyone accuses them of ‘slacking off’ though I should point out that they will remain onstage for the next three hours. A ‘respite’ of sorts comes after two hours when Alfter introduces the song ‘Polka’ which starts without both Brings brothers, but they obviously love playing too much to stay away longer than five minutes and before the song is half way through Peter is waving a guitar and Stephan is wielding a giant balalaika bass as if it were a Fender Stratocaster. Gotta admire the sheer stamina.
Three hours is a long haul for listening so I take a walk around the arena. Point your gaze in any direction on this evening and it will find red tartan. Men who look more like Peter Brings than the man himself does almost – and others who are distinctly wider of girth or greyer of hair. Tartan clad ladies of age from twenty something to seventy something. Near shows end Peter Brings introduces the oldest and youngest fans here this evening. The youngest probably wasn’t the youngest present at 7 pm but more likely the youngest allowed up after 8pm. The eldest was an octogenarian gentleman keen to make sure the band played near his home again as soon as possible. Were there Brings slippers at the merchandise stall? I didn’t see them, but a baby romper suit with tartan tie and trousers as ‘all in one’ was available for the discerning toddler with stylish aspirations.
The twin themes of family and generations crop up regularly both in songs and in anecdotes between them tonight. Peter Brings praises the sight of so many young faces staring up at him from parental shoulders. He shares their parental triumphs and challenges, recounting how to deal with a son who stays out until early morning and who, when asked where he’s been likely as not answers “out”. He is also pleased that the parents have brought their children, this with a smiling glint in his eye, because of the deep pedagogic lyrics of many a Brings song. The wink that follows leads the band into ‘Super Jeile Zick!’ certainly something to chew over there with linguists.
A wink and a smile are of course trademarks of a band comfortable with both songs and audience and a band that feels at home. Drummer Christian Blühm is of course virtually at home. If he didn’t have a drum kit to think about he could have walked here from his home in Südstadt. Harry Alfter too can probably almost see his old house in Beuel from where he’s standing with a view over the Rhine.
Lots of fun classics as one would expect like ‘Mitten in der Eifel’ and ‘Arsch Hu’. Lots of songs to ‘Schunkel’ to as well of course. ‘Schunkel’? Well imagine it’s midnight on 31 December and you’re singing ‘Auld Lang Syne’. Add a large glass with Kölsch raised above your head and you’re sort of on the right track. The lyrics are more likely to say you are a proud ‘Kölsche Jung’ (Cologne born and bred) and any old aquaintances not to be forgotten should come from Cologne’s ‘Chlödwig Platz’. Now you are almost understanding where the sentiments come from. Unless you actually were born in Köln though you won’t quite get the feeling – which I suspect was true of a good few ‘Bonners’ in tonight’s audience.
I did love the band’s tribute to the many lost heroes and heroines of music ‘Sin lang mer noch an Lääve Sind’ a celebration of our own living when so many do not. Nice to see Gary Moore’s image flickering up there amongst Chuck Berry, Einstein, Marilyn and Leonard Cohen. An eclectic list for sure but also a moving song that will stay in my memory. Moving too was ‘Nur nicht aus Leben weinen’ (Don’t cry over love) and my hips began to wave from side to side, the beer glass in my hand began to rise to shoulder height and I was almost ‘schunkling’ like a local. Almost.