As great as the concerts the previous night were, Saturday was the official festival day. As it was to start in the afternoon I had the morning to explore a bit of Oberhausen on foot.
If I could have had a bit more time, I think there would be a lot to discover in Oberhausen. Upon my arrival yesterday I saw a huge banner on the Gasometer pipe for an photo exposition ‘Wunder der Natur’ with a big photo by photographer Tim Flach and that seemed really interesting. But unfortunately I didn’t have time to both find visit the exposition. Some other time perhaps.
However a walk through the various streets was definitely possible and so I added some walking kilometers to my Strava account. Lots of German flags in the streets and on the cars in support of their football team as the European Championship has just started too. Lovely architectural buildings, a lot of interesting graffiti and the morning was gone before I knew it. A quick visit to the hotel and then off into the direction of the festival. I was still a bit early and found a shopping mall where a shanty choir was singing (sorry, no photos there :) ). Now then: time to hit the Static Roots Festival so off to the Zentrum Altenberg.
It is a terrific industrial location with a few museums, cafés and a venue. At two the doors open to give everyone time to enter. The lovely relaxed atmosphere of yesterday is still there. Burgers & So is setting up the booth for a selection of burgers and French friesand the bars are opened. Inside the stage is ready and outside the weather is great if you want te brath some fresh air between the concerts.
Finally at three in the afternoon Dietmar -turning 50 this day and celebrating 25 years of marriage with Marion- opens the festival. when I run into Leeroy Stager it turns out they also saw the shanty choir in the mall (I must have been elsewhere in my mind as I hadn’t noticed them) and wanted to bring the choir along to sing Happy Birthday to Dietmar. Now that would have been a start to the festival :D
The Midnight Union Band is the first band on stage. They’re from Kilkenny, Ireland and played the Kilkenny Roots festival not long ago. They start out lovingly folky, but add blues and a dash of rock soon enough. It swings and rocks. Loved it!
After the last notes of The Midnight Union Band we get the only disappointing news of the day: Damien Romano, scheduled to to second, turned left where he should have turned right and ended up in Munich instead of Oberhausen. A mere 600km in the wrong location and so would he not be able to perform at the festival.
Luckily the rest of the bands filled in the open spot magnificently and with lots of humor (mainly at Damien’s expense). So a bit earlier then planned Malojian took to the stage, or actually Stevie Scullion of Malojian. He excused himself for lacking a band that as he mentioned got stuck in Munich somehow (not the last reference to Damien :) ).
Stevie used several members of John Blek & The Rats to support him on stage. Sometimes only an extra pedal steel guitar, sometimes a full band. But also when he was on his own, it was simply terrific. Great captive and fragile voice. The latest Malojian album -Southlands- was produced by Steve Albini and is absolutely worth listening to.
Time for a little break, to have a burger and some sweet-potato pommes and then back at it again. The stage has been reset and at this time Leeroy Stagger and band take it up a notch. The band has traveled a bit further as they’re from Canada they’re finishing up their European tour with this concert.
The sound is louder and is definitely a lot closer to rock. I’d say in the direction of old Tom Petty and a strong sense of Steve Earle as a take-off point. The band luckily did not shy away from jamming, with some 70’s sounding psychedelic riffs. A terrific band with an equally terrific sound , would love to see them again!
We’re getting on full steam now. The atmosphere gets better and better, the music is terrific and the audience enthusiastic. And we still have two bands to go!
Now the Wynntown Marshals, from Edinburgh/Scotland are up and they pick up where Leeroy Stagger left (quite literally as Leeroy and band had a plane to catch). Great musicianship, a band that clearly had fun on stage and with more long stretched songs. Just when you think the song is over, they set off again. As eventually the set draws to and end, the band stops the show for a bit, calls up Dietmar on the stage for a well deserved moment in the spotlights.
As the final act finally John Blek & The Rats are on and what a band they are to end the festival. I’ve seen most of the band on stage the day before in service of Anna Mitchell and earlier this day backing up Malojian, but now John Blek himself is taking center stage.
And they have it all: rootsy Americana, folk as they do oh so well in Ireland (did you notice half the acts came from Ireland?), fragile songs and rocking the night away. John’s voice is fantastic and is a firm central point. It really was way to soon when the band finished the set. Luckily the audience demanded an encore (as with all the bands) and got just that.
As the smoke is clearing, it’s up to Dietmar to take to the stage one more time. Thanking the audience, the bands and everyone else and -more importantly- strongly hinting to a return of the festival next year. I most certainly hope so, it is a terrific location, a great festival and it would be fantastic to see this return for many years. Dietmar and Marion: thank you very much for a terrific festival and introducing me to so many new bands.