It’s very rare that the weather plays along with the music. Here we were though under a vivid blue sky, sun beating down and listening to Brazilian Samba rhythms. All is not as it seems though. We’re not in Rio but at Bonn Kunst!Rasen and the Samba has a distinctive German twist, coming as it does from local band Querbeat and Bavarian La Brass Banda rounding off a busy opening long weekend Open-Air in Bonn.
I wouldn’t want to be a promoter for sure. Opening act this year at Kunst!Rasen was Tom Jones. The international legendary World-Star status of the Welsh ‘Tiger’ saw something over 2000 visitors on Thursday. Friday saw the visit of teenie-idol Pop-singer Lina with an audience twice as large and probably half as old as Thursday’s was. Here we are on Saturday with a Brass Band from Bavaria and a local band from Bonn-Beuel who play half their gigs in the Cologne-Bonn area – and 8000 people are basking in the Kunst!Rasen sunshine. Go figure as they say.
The origins of openers this evening Querbeat couldn’t be more local or less Latin. They began life as a School band at the Kardinal-Frings-Gymnasium in Beuel. In a World of Karneval bands from the area they dared to be different and took well known local Carnival tunes before giving them a Latin_American brass twist and here they are in 2018 – a tour poster tacked to their souvenir stand has the word ‘Ausverkauft’ (Sold-Out) stamped next to almost all the dates.
The success of Querbeat’s sound is not hard to understand when you’re standing in a sunny open-air arena. It’s happy music with no pretensions other than getting people to swing their hips to the rhythm and have a good time. A 2011 hit of theirs says it all with its title: ‘Allez Olé Alaaf!’ Singer Jo Jo Berger has a relaxed upbeat smile and a stage presence that allows him to command attention but disappear into the background whilst someone else takes the limelight. That goes for the whole band in fact. No stars here – just very talented youngsters having fun.
It all looks natural and easy but must involve a lot of organization to avoid chaos onstage and off-stage… Midway through their set the various band members each grab a beer crate and head off into the audience to play. It makes for a wonderful site as heads pop-up with trumpets, trombones and guitars all around the arena. For some, it’s also a chance to accept grateful refreshment from the audience around them. All good music and most importantly, all good fun.
LaBrassBanda were not going to have it easy to top that I suspected. The two band’s share a lot in common on the face of it too. A party atmosphere musically based on brass-powered songs. Songs of ‘beer, girl’s and parties’. As Querbeat had a trick up their collective sleeves through re-interpreting Karneval songs with Brass, LBB too has found an interesting niché to make their Brass stand out: they sing in Bavarian – and naturally, their sound has much more of an ‘oompah’ kick to it.
LBB actually played their first ever live gig in London during the 2008 European Football Championships. It’s hard to imagine what London made of them during those shows from the back of the band’s trailer. They certainly would not have understood much from the lyrics – even much of Germany has problems on that front (Bavarian is not the most accessible of accents). When I say that their website describes a musical style that is Punk-rock/Reggae it might have you wanting to block your ears and vow never to attend October-Fest. Actually though, outside of the language barrier, it surprisingly works very well indeed – as the sold-out European Tours prove.
Check out their song ‘Autobahn’ (no, not the Kraftwerk classic) to get an idea of LaBrassBanda’s undeniable charm. ‘Brass band Music on Steroids’ would be my description if I had to find a place for them in the local music shop. Thankfully I don’t as really such music is impossible to pin down, which can be said of Querbeat too. File under ‘Music-to-jump-up-and-down-to-with-a-beer-in-your-hand-in-Summersunshine’.
Sanity will be resumed at Kunst!Rasen on Thursday with Steve Winwood and Gary Clarke Junior…