French Night closes Stadtgarten 2023

All good things etc… On Saturday evening it was time for the 2023 Stadtgarten Season to come to an end. The month has flown by and hopefully, there has been something for everyone, that’s always the aim of the Kulturamt der Stadt Bonn led by the tireless enthusiasm of Hans -Joachim Over oder ‘HaJo’ as everyone knows him. Today it was largely French Music Night with local band the Soline Ensemble and French Indie-Pop band The Rodeo, with a warm-up for everyone courtesy of the Bonn inclusion band Project Inclusion. Three bands then – and a 6:30 pm start to cram all the good music in.

With the first week of this season’s festival brought to us by Jazztube, we had a global night, a hard rock night, a night of young talent via PopCamp, Create Music NRW and Musikstation, popNRW, Hip-Hop courtesy of Musiknetzwerk Bonn, Global Pop… If there wasn’t something for you then it certainly wasn’t for lack of trying.

Strangely enough, the only weekend with a real weather threat was the first. HaJo must have friends in High places is all I can conclude. It seemed like a nice problem to have when Project Inclusion took the stage at 6:30 pm sharp and found themselves blinking into dazzling sunlight. Kudos here to Bonn’s Kulturamt for fitting a full ramp down one side of the stage for the band’s co-lead singer’s wheelchair. The project itself mixes musicians with those with a disability and even though I’m not a fan of Hip-Hop there was no denying the enthusiasm radiating from the stage and especially the gentleman in the aforementioned wheelchair resplendent in a Queen T-shirt.

The evening was organized by Institut Francais Bonn (with thanks to Kathrin Weichselbaum) and, sure enough, The Soline Ensemble got the French part of the evening off to a flyer. Soline herself is from Paris which you could tell just by looking at her flamboyant hat. French style through and through. An enjoyable meander through French chanson from the 30’s and Edith Piaf through to the inimitable Zaz. Okay, hand-on-heart, I love Zaz doing her kazoo break sans-kazoo (with just vocal) on Je Veux but this was the second time in as many days that I had heard it live by others. On the other hand, I could listen to covers of Piaf’s Dans Ma Rue ten days in a row and never tire of it. Is there a French Chanson ‘Smoke on the Water‘? That song that is a stock-in-trade known by everyone? Then it’s that one. Worthy of mention in such an ensemble is the band that swung the music along, and the twin flamenco Jazz guitars of Thomas Monnerjahn and Christian Füllgraff, together with a steady beat from Diego Furian on contra-bass ensured that Parisenne flair was never in short supply. I also enjoyed their version of Michel Legrand’s ‘Windmills of Your Mind’ made famous from the ‘Thomas Crown Affair’ film.

and then it was 8:30 pm and time for the very last music from the Stadtgarten stage in 2023. The Rodeo, from France? Seems like an odd choice of name? Actually, it’s an anagram of the lead singers first name. Dorothee Hannequin. A quirky idea that actually fitted the music very well in its quirkiness.

The Rodeo certainly started on a high with the rocky, strutting rhythm of Vallee de Siddim but never really quite hit that musical high again. Maybe because I don’t speak French. The music has to grab me, as it does with Zaz for example. The Lady certainly had charisma and confidence, throwing off her jacket and armband early in the show to relax into the music. A solid rocking band, and worth checking out on YouTube where venues with a small and sweaty club atmosphere seem to fit the music better than outside by a beer garden with picnickers snoozing on the embankment.

It’s a bit churlish to complain though. A good, professional set by a band who knew their stuff and delivered it well enough for what was, after all, free admission. It was, when all is said and done, a festival where everyone has the chance to discover their favourite in a veritable licorice-all-sorts of musical styles. Me? My favourite ‘find’ of the festival was singer-songwriter Becky Sikasa at the popNRW evening. If you made it to several/all shows then you may well have discovered a different favourite band or music style, and that’s the magic of each Stadtgarten Festival. Long may they continue.

Thanks to Hotel Königshof for offering accommodation to the musicians, and the various sponsors who make such enjoyable evenings in the sun possible!

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