Typical of the varied programme on offer this year Stadtgarten ended it’s 2017 open air season with two very different bands. The irresistable Salsa beat of Macondito and the equally irresistable chanson vocals of Luna Gritt. Musically ‘chalk and cheese’ but quality wise I would pay good money to see both again – and at Stadtgarten we saw both for free! A good deal, or what?
The previous evening had seen local matadors Blümchenknicker get the audience up and dancing. I couldn’t help wondering if the audience had just stayed there all night and day because when I arrived, it was still only the soundcheck and people were already trying out their best dance floor moves. Since their formation in 1988 Macondito have become one of Germany’s most popular Salsa bands and it’s not hard to see why. The German/Venezualen rhythm section mix ensure the formers precision and the latters colourful flair. Throw in the enthusiastic smile of Cuban singer Osvaldo Fajardo and the band are simply irresistable. “Dancing is good for you” remarked the somewhat ‘rotund’ Fajardo at one point before fingering his not so slim waste and pointing out “This?” This is a beer stomache. Nothing to do with dancing!” A smile and the musical fun began again in earnest.
The confident ones were grooving to the salsa beat right before the stage, but looking back I could see legs shaking and arms waving in the air in distant corners of the Stadtgarten from less so confident couples who just wanted to let the music take them where it may on the ‘dance floor’. The overlong soundcheck meant a late start and it seems that the Latin spirit over-rode the Teutonic organization as a five minute encore became ten or more. It was to cost Luna Gritt a deserved encore later in the evening – but how can you stop a band when not just they, but half the audience are in full motion?
Odd posters of Luna Gritt suggested some sort of Brit Pop 60’s renaissance duo. Singer Claire Veritti clad in a pink chiffon skirt and the mysteriously named guitarist SEdd in what look like a short sleeved Paislyesque shirt and possibly pink trousers. Both wearing sunglasses of course. Possibly a band putting style before substance? I feared. I turned out to be very wrong. I should have known by the ‘Influences’ list on Facebook: ‘John Lennon, Freddie Mercury, David Bowie, Alain Bashung, Christophe, The Kinks, Elliott Smith, Otis Redding’. This was going to be chanson with a twist of something – but what?
Luna Gritt’s set was certainly one of my favourite performances of all from the Stadtgarten shows this year – and indeed from the concerts I’ve attended this year. A simple assembly of singer, guitarist and drummer that created sparse arrangements perfect for a vocalist of quality and top marks should go also to the ‘unseen’ band member’ – the sound technician. An excellently balanced audio delight. Visually also excellently balanced with the gentle gyrations of Veritti stage right mirrored by the moves of SEdd stage left. Had I been twenty years younger I would have even asked for the graceful guitarist’s hairdresser. A perfect coordination of the uncoordinated is what I will have to say when next I get my hair cut. Joking aside though, the said SEdd is a fine guitarist for underscoring Veritti’s vocals without getting in their way.
Kathrin Kühn of organizers Institut Francais had promised us songs that were emotional and not always happy even when the tunes were. It was a good description of the set. Much was in French of course (The band is from Nancy) but the atmosphere was carried through as it is when songs are sung with real feeling – Zaz is my touchstone for this and Luna Gritt certainly passed my Litmus Paper/Touchstone test. Claire Veritti’s voice reminds me particularly of Chrissie Hynde, and gives the songs a Britpop charisma away from the standard chanson sound. Song of the evening, and of the season for me, was the tender ‘wish’ (you won’t pass me by). Yes, in english, so I could understand exactly the emotions of a song to someone who has touched your life and is gone. Great songs are those that a listener can interpret to mean something for themselves, that expand beyond one meaning for one person and one situation. This was one of those songs.
I was disappointed to find there is not a lot of music from Luna Gritt available online (SEdd told me later that they don’t create physical cd’s). I guess the sixties approach to selling their music ends with the wardrobe, which is a pity. 10 pm came around all too quickly, taking everyone by surprise I suspect. Hans-Joachim Over apologized for the band having to forsake a deserved encore “For the sake of being able to perform concerts again here next year. Is that okay? ” a resounding cheer for that from everyone.
Over’s view on the season is a positive one. The weather for the most part was kind (I think he was trying to forget a wet and breezy Stadtmusik day in August). Crowds have been generally very good too with several evenings bringing in over 2000 listeners to sit at the beer garden, picnic on the lawn, or dance before the bandstand. What could be better on a Summers evening? Thank you to ‘Hajo’ and the many sponsors and contributors that made Stadtgarten the varied and enjoyable season that was promised at the June press conference. You delivered in style!