You had to get there early for a good place on the grass beside the Stadtgarten Stage. Perfect weather for a picnic with free music was on offer on both Friday courtesy of Die Musikstation and Saturday courtesy of PopCamp. Seven bands in two nights, so there really was something for everyone, and if a band didn’t catch your attention then there was always a chance to sunbathe or share a bottle of wine with friends. Bonn Summer Magic was indeed in the air!
The Stadtgarten Season really is a testament to what can be achieved through cooperation by local music institutions. JazzTube, Musiknetzwerk, NRW KULTURsekretariat, Institut Francais – all brought together and presented by Bonn’s own Commissioner for Rock & Pop Hans-Joachim Over. ‘HaJo’ really has done a marvellous job pulling so many disparate bodies into his musical ‘boat’ by the Rhine. He recalls speaking with the nearby Hotel Königshof and being concerned about the infamous excess noise problems that plague Bonn every Summer. In fact, the hotel enjoys the music so much that they offer guest musicians travelling long distances to play at Stadtgarten free bed and breakfast.
The offer from Königshof won’t have been necessary on Friday though as four excellent local bands representing Bonn’s Die Musikstation took the stage. Indie rockers WESTND started things off in fine style whilst the picnickers were still arriving. The crowd was still gathering in size and spaces on the grass becoming smaller by the minute as Ijaz Ali brought his brand of singer-songwriter Acoustic Rock to the stage. It’s not the first time I’ve seen Ijaz, and I’m looking forward to hearing the results of recordings that are currently underway from the likeable man from Bad Hönningen.
I missed last years Tosy2Masters so Gin Red were an unknown quantity to me musically. I was impressed! Their music really sounds like it’s coming from a band twice their ages. Vocalist Laura has an infectious enthusiasm that quickly wins the audience over, and together with the Funky saxophone of band leader Niklas Müller, they make for a great dance party. Except that by now the lawn beside the Alten Zoll stage is full and no-one wants to lose their ‘real Estate’ in the sun.
Which brings me to Melchi. Not a lot needs to be added about the genial genie from Cameroon. His act is slicker than the one he brought to Bonn Folk Club not so long ago, but it’s just as mesmerising. I just about managed to understand Wolfgang Niedecken’s Kölsch recently at Kunstrasen, but Melchi is often singing a local Cameroon dialect – Bamoun or in Camfranglais (a language used by the Cameroon youths). If the words are impenetrable it doesn’t really matter though, they’re not the key to Melchi’s success. That success is undeniably down to his charm and his skills at rhythmic improvisation (not to forget his skills at partly re-building his guitar to create those sounds.
Obviously, the news that good music was being played this evening had travelled. By 9.30 pm the lawn and most of the open ground in front of the stage was full. In the distance, I could see the figures of people sitting on the high-wall next to the Alten Zoll itself. I wouldn’t have been surprised to hear that the statue of Ernst-Moritz Arndt had turned a little to the right to catch the magic.
Saturday was PopCamp day, and as a spearhead for coaching new musicians, it was pre-programmed to be a day for fresh musical ideas as well as fresh young faces. The faces of Floatiz were actually not so young and the accompanying info about them in the Stadtgarten programme suggested they might be ‘Schwer zu verdauen’ (hard to swallow). ‘Five musicians with five different musical styles and tastes’. Actually, a couple of the band were different from the one advertised, and I’m fearing that one of the absentees was a rocker – or at least had an ear for an interesting melody. Hip-Hop at full speed verbally and visually really isn’t my thing or my cameras. Five men eternally walking about the stage as if they had a cramp in their collective legs became quickly tiresome. Apparently, there was normally a drummer, but his replacement spent a lot of time making deep bassy noises on a machine that got into the stomach rather than the legs. Not my thing at all – but somebody’s thing for sure, and full marks for keeping the texts rattling unfalteringly if unnervingly like a machine gun. I saw a number of blankets being held questioningly in rolled-up positions as their owners wondered if this was the model for the evening’s music.
Jeremias looked far more the PopCamp band type. Young and good looking boys who pleased eyes as well as ears with their enjoyable mix of Pop and Funk. There was clearly effort put into the band’s presentation as well as music, which is a tribute to the PopCamp itself. Maybe this is the new Revolverheld? Maybe they will have gone four separate ways in a years time? Whatever happens, the youngsters of Jeremias have a good musical fundament to make of their future what they will. The sky is the Limit’? Well, maybe not the sky, but Nordrhine-Westphalia quite possibly. Very enjoyable set and one to watch.
You might well have watched Planschemalöör already without realising it. Not so long ago they were in Toys2Masters under the name Juri. They were even initially advertised for the Stadtgarten as Juri. The band are already well established and have a style all their own which tonight is white tshirts and light blue shorts. If you want to know more about them personally you can visit their homepage and find out their favourite ice cream flavours. I’d prefer to know their musical influences myself – but I guess I’m not planning to buy them ice cream.
Seriously though, the band behind singer Juri Rother are a fun combo and know how to entertain. A lot of older bands could do with a visit to PopCamp I suggest – many have lost the interest (or will?) to do anything other than plug-in, play, plug-out, leave. Not so Planschemalöör. My three hours with Wolfgang Niedecken last week put me in good stead for the local language songs (these are Kölsche Jungs). Give ‘Heimat’ a listen to get an impression. An entertaining band who lean heavily enough into Karneval territory to stick in the ears but have enough rock in the sound to appeal to the rest of the musical world. Lots of smiling faces on the grass as the sun went down. Up on the high wall near the Alten Zoll there are black figures waving their legs to the music. Ernst-Moritz Arndt would have been amused as much by the blue shorts as the music.