Squinting into the harsh sunlight onto the stage before me, it’s all to clear that it’s almost Autumn – and this is the last Stadtgarten concert evening of 2018.
Will the final notes played this year be amongst the most memorable? Gentree, Galactic Superlords and Electric Sandwich are about to answer my question. No question that the band names are amongst the quirkiest of this, or indeed any year, but will the music be as interesting as the monikers? This is also a first for The Harmonie as a contributing partner to the Stadtgarten season.
Let the music commence…
A Brit-Folk band from Bonn/Cologne before Metal Rockers? Imagine having Ralph Mctell support Motörhead. The four young local gentlemen who make up Gentree don’t have it easy to begin with as the sun shines brightly and directly onto them. I’m expecting the worst. My bar for Brit-Folk is pretty high with the amazing Skinny Lister being my all-time favourite currently gigging live band.
At the end of a shortish set though I am impressed enough to buy a CD. It turns out to be rather good, and, truth to tell, rather better than the band on the day. Live, and on CD, Gentree have a good sound with good harmonies and I’d swear if I didn’t know better that those were genuine Brits singing. What’s lacking on disc and on stage is a certain dynamism and pace. Take a look at the Skinny’s, guys, there is a lot to like about your music and just a thin line between good and great.
What preconceived notions can you have of a band calling itself ‘Galactic Superlords’? I’d expect to hear them playing in the restaurant at the edge of Douglas Adams’ Universe. My fear is that they might take themselves too seriously. Thankfully it’s only the music that’s taken seriously. Singer Katharina Heldt thankfully has a big smile on her face as she wields a heavy medieval sword during ‘Down with the King’. Yes, it’s all ‘Man on the silver mountain’ meets ‘Kill the King’ meets, well, any metal lyric/riff you’ve heard this last 40 years.
The secret is of course that most of the band’s audience hasn’t usually been around that long normally. With a sixties KrautRock legend to follow this evening though, that rule doesn’t apply. The said mature audience though laps up this musical blast from it’s collective past. I lap them up too. How can I not have a soft spot for a band whose singer has Phil Lynott tattooed on her arm, and employs twin lead guitarists. Nothing new here then, but a fun live band giving 100% musically and visually.
So, I promised you kraut-rock, and here it is. I always feel a little uneasy at that description – but it’s one the band use themselves as a description this evening – and they announce it with pride. Other descriptions are more grand: Jazz-Rock Fusion for example. Kraut-Rock though seems to fit their pre-punk attitude better.
Formed in 1967, Electric Sandwich were grabbing attention in Bonn by just their second concert when the guitarist came onstage with an advent wreath on his head. All candles burning of course. Oh, and the roadies threw dead fish at the audience. What it must have been to follow rock music in it’s formative years!
The band’s only release, from 1973, was described by Ohlert thus: “We deliberately like to create an intellectual attitude. We try to design our lyrics in a way that allows a listener with poor knowledge of English to understand them.” Not only was every song different in style – within each song the style was apt to change. Rock music at a time when the rules were still to be written. flamoyant solos by flamboyant guitar players. Rory Gallagher’s Taste and Clapton with Cream. It all must have seemed so fresh and mind-blowing back in the day.
The band are of course now all grown up. Remaining original band member guitarist Jörg Ohlert is seated throughout in a manner reminiscent of Blues Band’s Dave Kelly. Despite our nearness to the Rhine there are no dead fish thrown. There is a palpable feeling of gigs past in the atmosphere though. Not just the band, but a good portion of the audience, look to have, if not tears in their eyes, at least lumps in their throats. Nothing wild or wildly startling visually or musically now, an odd way really to end this year’s Stadtgarten Season. The Galactic Superlords would have been my choice to finish the evening – but perhaps age took precedence.
So that’s really it for Stadtgarten in 2018. The recent news that The concert Season here has been secured for 2019 brought a big round of applause when announced by Rock and Pop Beauftragte for Bonn Hans-Joachim Over announced it. The large applause was also a well deserved thank you to Over and his small but hard-working team of sound/lights and stagehands who kept the band changes each evening running like clockwork and gave us photographers a well lit stage and you the music fans an excellent sound in an oddly designed location. Thanks to for the Hotel Königshof who offered accomodation for travelling bands and the various local music initiatives (a number that grows each year: new in 2018 were Rocktimes and The Harmonie). Thanks too for all the people who came, sat, had abeer or three, enjoyed the music – and came again, and again. See you all again in 2019 by the Rhine!
THANK YOU! to the team behind the concerts at Stadtgarten!