For many people in Bonn, particularly teenagers and students, the Stadtgarten season at Alten Zoll is already an institution. An extension almost of the numerous teenagers often seen and heard in the shade of the University trees strumming guitars as the sun goes down. I’m sure that opening act in 2018, Cynthia Nickschas, has been one of those strummers. This time around though she had an audience of well over 2000 picnicking on the grass beside her. French electro Folkies Fergessen, Indie-Rockers Koj and Jazz quartet Radius completed the opening weekend of music under the setting sun.
A nervous sounding Tweet from Cynthia Nickschas on Friday evening announced she still had no idea exactly what she and her band would be playing in an hour or so. It’s the sort of nervous energy that this talented young lady seems to thrive on. Her problem is an enviable one – she certainly now has a lot more excellent material to choose from since the recent release of new CD ‘Egoschwein’, whose 14 tracks is a lesson that many a young band with their 5 track cd’s could learn from. An excellent interview with Cynthia in the General Anzeiger will have brought her to the attention of a wider audience, and deservedly so. Cynthia Nickschas is as natural a part of Bonn’s music scene as the Stadtgarten Season itself and long may both continue with their magic.
Electro-Folk band from France, Fergessen, were an altogether Rockier and more complex proposition. I didn’t catch their set, but there were apparently problems with the sound system initially. My thanks to Sabine Büttner for supplying pictures to the first evening – a perfect start weatherwise, and musically an interesting, if challenging, mixture.
Much of the same can be said of Saturday’s two bands. There was not much that Koj and Radius had in common other than sharing the same stage on the same evening. ‘Deep, dark, Indie’ is the description this Münster based band give of their music. ‘With dramatic, raw soundscapes’. I don’t know how it went down on the band’s recent dates supporting Beth Ditto, but I found it all a little grey and depressing on such a beautiful Summers evening. Certainly, something to chew on with the cheese and ham laid out on the on the picnic blankets. The tortoise-shell spectacles worn by singer Alina Slegers compounded the intensity of the band’s sparse musical landscape in a visual way. It was all very serious, and certainly worth a listen at home, but not the ideal music on a sunny evening.
So what was the ideal music? Maybe some light, inspirational jazz perhaps? Enter Radius.
A mix of John Scofield meets Brad Mahldau, joined by Jimi Hendrix and Joshua Redman, is the band’s own interpretation of their style and, as that decsription suggests, they are a pretty eclectic bunch of musicians in the best sense of the word. Thomas Kimmerle chose the band to promote this years ‘Jazz Tube’ Festival (DETAILS HERE) and a masterstroke it was too. If you’ve been a regular Jazz Tuber then you will have seen Stefan Rey and Jonas Vogelsang on numerous occasions. The two prove to be very inventive writers as the evening’s music proved. Modern Jazz to a funky groove is a good description although I like very much the extra Rock Music dimension that Vogelsang brings to the bands musical table . Sparingly used but very effective. He can also play very laid back runs that were especially welcome on this hot Summer evening.
Stefan Rey is also a master at changing style but keeping the quality on both electric and Contrabass, which is the great strength of Radius. It all looks effortless, and, take note Koj, FUN! Constantin Krahmer on keys and Alex Bernath on drums need to be on their toes with these compositions and always are – the sign of a real Band. Each an excellent soloist but also an excellent team player. Bernath’s enthusiasm was such that he kicked through the back of his bass-drum – needing some quick thinking and a roll of gaffer-tape to make it to songs end. Heroes all – even those behind the scenes. Bernath has quite a musical pedigree too: Robert Coleman (James Brown guitarist) : “Alex is so steady and funky, if James Brown was here tonight, Alex would be his new drummer”. Chuck Leavell and Branford Marsalis are gigs appearing on Bernath’s CV.
Need I say more? Not that any of that really matters to the 2000 or so picnickers camped in the fading light of a glorius day by the Rhine. It’s wonderful music to relax to. Life is good, music is the healer once again. The first week down and already Stadtgarten is weaving it’s Summer magic. How it continues? Find out HERE