Jazz at the Strawberry Festival

As a friend of mine was singing at the local Strawberry Festival, a whole group of us went there to check it out.
The festival was held at the farm of a farmer in Weiterstadt, close to Darmstadt. A sunday afternoon crowd of mostly elderly and kids gathered in a big marquee and enjoyed a variety of dishes based on asparagus or strawberries.The Jazzband “Focus on Jazz” performed many ever-greens and also some less well known tunes. Overall they were really good, very professional musicians. Because of this, I got the impression, that the band was quite a bit overqualified for the crowd.

After the band, an asparagus peeling competition between some local “celebrities” was set up and moderated by a very distinct entertainer from the area. While the contestants were peeling away, she was singing behind them in a very strong hessisch dialect.

The “grand finale” was reached, when a dancing group of some girls from a local school presented their very enthousiastic routine:

Overall it definately was a very interesting and diverse Sunday arvo!

Free Hugs

A while ago a friend suggested to organise a Free Hugs Day in Heidelberg. Over the weeks we got a nice group of 13 people together. The Friday evening before heading down to Heidelberg, we met at my place to create some signs.
Saturday morning we all met at the main train station in Darmstadt and took the regional train to Heidelberg. (a trip of about one hour) Already while walking towards the city center we started giving free hugs to random people we met and who were not afraid to accept this unexpected favour.

Before diving in deeper, let’s cite Wikipedia to explain this concept in a few words:

[…] a social movement involving individuals who offer hugs to strangers in public places. […] The hugs are meant to be random acts of kindness – purportedly selfless acts performed by a person for the sole reason of making others feel better.

Trees want hugs, too! As do grandmas. At first we settled right underneath the Heiliggeist Kirche near the market. Being so lucky to catch on of the very first sunny and warm days this year, our signs were shining in the bright sunlight and the first confused looking people started to ask us why we were actually doing this. After dispersing the suspicion we might be some sort of sect or organisation trying to hook people, most people were amazed by this idea and loved it. Especially mid-aged and elder people agreed that Germany needed more of such events. (I think this is true for any country at any time)

A younger German couple we hugged early during the morning came back, carrying their instruments. After settling right behind us they started jamming on their guitars, creating an amazing atmosphere. As we were giving out our hugs for free, they also played without a hat on the street. (Thanks again unknown musicians, you certainly improved our mood even further!)

The Free Hugs Crew The castle over HeidelbergAround midday we moved down the road a bit, as the sun had moved away from our previous spot. We kept on hugging random strangers till the sun set behind the beautiful old-town of Heidelberg.
After this long day of hugging, everyone was rather exhausted. After dinner at a Libanese restaurant, we walked through the old town, catching a glimpse at the illuminated old castle. Later we crawled some local bars and got introduces to a “special” local schnapps. At the end of a long day, everyone joined their hosts, surfing some local chouches (thanks again hosts!).


When I got back home from work this Thursday, a friend of mine was asking if someone was interested in seeing the band Embryo at the Roots (a very small and nice reggae bar in Darmstadt). We got there at about 21:00 and found a nice place on a couch in the music room (roughly the size of my bedroom :-O ).

A pile of instruments The Band A pile of instruments
The Band The Band The Band

The band itself arrived around 22:00 and sat down for a late african dinner. After moving in all those diverse instruments (e-guitar, bass, vibraphone, keyboard, trombone and some indian double-sided drum) they started playing. Their sound reminded me a lot of a more psychedelic version of the early Santana. I massively enjoyed those chilled tunes relaxing on the comfy couch. They played till 01:00, but it felt way shorter as I was so immersed into the sound.

After this concert, the musical balance of this week is regained (see prev. post).

Gogol Bordello

Earlier this week I thought about seeing Gogol Bordello at the “Alte Feuerwache” in Mannheim. During the day at work I tended towards not going (it’s a 40min ride by car) when I heard a song of them on Radio Paradise. I decided to go to Mannheim and I bought a (not so cheap) ticket online.

In the evening I drove down to Mannheim and found a parking spot in the area after a few minutes search. I got to the venue around 9ish and had a unpleasant encounter at the entry. They refused to let me take my camera (non-SLR that is) inside! I really didn’t expect this from a band who call themselves punks. On the other hand I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised to see that the fully virtual ticket process 😉 went smoothly; as I don’t have a printer hooked up to my computer, I stored the ticket PDF I got online on my mobile and presented it to them. The girl typed in the number underneath the barcode and I could enter. I still wonder though if it is possible to scan the barcode from a display?

Inside, I got me a shandy and a few minutes later the band started. Soon I realised that their studio recordings were way better then their live show. The drumset was mixed way too loud, blowing everything else to pieces, which is especially sad, as they run a very interesting mix of instruments (e-violin, acoustic guitar, washboard percussion, …). Also their appearance on stage did not feel authentic, more like a well choreographed freak show. Being rather dissappointed, I just left about 1 hour into the show.

I guess one can’t always be lucky with the concerts, though the majority of the recent concerts was really good.

Boban i Marko Markovic Orkestar at the Palmengarten

By coincidence I discovered an interesting upcoming concert in Frankfurt just that day. A “family run” balkan brass group.
“The quintessential brass Balkan band, originating from Vladicin Han, Southern Serbia, once again captures the mantle of leading band of Serbia (a title for which they have remained crowned since the late 80’s). Their music, performed by a twelve-piece strong band, is wholly defined by their own gypsy lineage whilst giving a knowing nod towards other musical and cultural backgrounds closely related to that of the Romani’s.” (myspace)
Father Boban is passing on the leadership of this group to his son Marko, which was nicely visible during the concert. At first Boban was in the center, directing the musicians. During the evening this slowly shifted, with Marko moving more and more into the center. My impression was that this also reflected in the music, getting more playful and incorporating modern, almost pop, elements. Definately a great concert, not at all what the prejudices reagarding brass bands in Germany are (old-folks stuff, …).


“In the heart of the ‘Taubertal’ valley, with the backdrop of the beautiful medieval town of Rothenburg ob der Tauber, ‘the Eiswiese’ provides an exceptional site for an open air festival.
As well as the great location, this event is genuinely different from other open air events. As we are limited by the natural amphitheatre of the site, for us, it is a question of: ‘size does not matter; it`s what you do with it.’ Yes, that`s what counts, folks!” (taubertal-festival.de)

Though the weather was predicted pretty bad (a lot of rain and strong winds) we again were rather lucky. It just rained a little bit Thursday night and it got story Friday, but that was it, the rest of the weekend was rather pleasant, not too hot or cold.
Because of the wind on Friday our pavillions mostly consistet of random sticks and fiber-reinforced tape by then. (Hail tape! What would I do without it?)
As I didn’t expect the parking area to be some sort of remote from the campsite, I removed the backseats from my car (which was surprisingly simple, cheers Toyota-engineers) in order to be able to fit my bicycle trailer in there. Arriving at the festival around midnight (the Filderstadt friends had saved some space for me), I realised that this was no necessary. As the concert area and the camping area were on different sites, there was plenty of space and one could just drive the car right to the campsite. With things beeing very well organised and easy going, I could just dive right into the festival spirit and relax. (Aside very good operated sanitary installations they also organised a small tent-supermarket with all the basics)

Hubert von Goisern, Black Sea to North Sea

Hubert von Goisern “… is considered as one of the most influential heads of the “Neue Volksmusik” …” (last.fm) and of of his specialities is to incorporate folkmusic from various places around the world into his austrian based style. On his latest tour from the Black Sea to the North Sea he and his whole crew are travelling on a barque, which also is the base for the stage. Every now and then they stop at some town along the rivers they travel and stage a concert. At each of these shows they also include local artists with their distinct styles.
After my parents and me spent a day together in Darmstadt, we went down to Hirschhorn near Heidelberg to see one of these shows. Though the forecast predicted rain, we were lucky and enjoyed a great open air concert.