This year marks the third year of a fantastic festival in Germany. Starting in 2016 as a one-off to mark the 50th birthday of it’s organizer Dietmar Leibecke, two editions on it feels like it’s always been here. It’s one of the musical highlights of my year, that’s for sure! Getting more attention around the world it’s certainly getting more noticed and I’ve been looking forwards to the festival for the past few months!
The setting of the Static Roots Festival is simply great. Held at Zentrum Altenberg in Oberhausen, with music inside and a ‘biergarten’ outside with beers, burgers and on Saturday coffee and cake. The audience is respectful and quiet in the venue (you can hear a pin drop!) and outside the audience, organization and the musicians all hang about, chatting, drinking beers and having a good time together. The festival’s motto “Peace, Love, Rock ‘n’ Roll” can truly be felt here. The atmosphere is simply great, both inside with the music and outside and with a diverse international group of audience as well. The weather is fantastic, the beer is cool and the burgers from Burgers&So are delicious.
Next to having a good time, enjoying music drinks and food and each other, the festival annually also raises funds for Doctors without Borders. You can make donations or buy some of the festival-items to help the organisation.
The festival spans two days. We start on Friday late in the afternoon and around midnight head to the hotel so we can all get back to the start of the second part of the festival Saturday early in the afternoon.
Kicking off the festival on Friday is Hannah Aldridge from Muscle Shoals, Alabama. Terrific voice and -it being Friday the 13th- a dark edge to an good Americana set. A lovely start to the festival with some Americana songs drenched in folklore and myth.
Then we get The Stephen Stanley Band, which is from Canada and they’ve brought Hadley McCall Thackston from Georgia/USA with them. The band is formed around (of course) Stephen Stanley and they’re a Fine bunch of musicians with lots of power, great songs and the harmonies with Hadley and Stephen are a great mix!
The band is in terrific form and rocks, swings and races on. By now we’re all well into festival mode!
Static Roots Festival finds it roots in part in the Irish “Kilkenny Roots Festival“. In honor of Willie Meighan -Kilkenny’s organizer, who passed away last year- the Static Roots Festival wants to honor the legend of the man by introducing a special slot in the festival and kicking that off in this years edition is Kilkeny’s own The Midnight Union Band.
I remember them well form the first edition of Static Roots and I’m truly happy to see and hear them again. Their Irish bluesy take of ‘folk, roots and Americana’ is simply a perfect fit for the festival!
Ending the first evening is the task of Terra Lightfoot and band and they do that oh so well. Honestly it get’s so psychedelic in the end that Jimi Hendrix himself would be proud. Blues, rock, soul with long jamming solos from a band that owned the stage. A solid rocking set that was a perfect end to a perfect evening!
The next day due to an unfortunate cycling accident in the morning I just barely make it in time to see Susto. It made for some painful moments getting up and down, but I was mostly happy I made it through without breaking anything (other then my helmet). But enough about that…
It unfortunately meant I myself wasn’t yet in a good mindset to get a good impression of Susto, but from all the reactions I heard afterwards it was really good. I did just get enough to hear some of the songs and they did indeed sound great! Susto is normally a full band, but today it’s only Justin Osborne, who with a soulful voice manages to grip the audience getting the second day of the festival of to a really good start.
As Susto’s concert ends and the stage is being prepared I take the opportunity to have a drink and eat some fries and feel a whole lot better for that. Good enough to get going for the rest of the festival.
Back inside we’re treated to Anthony Da Costa who is traveling with The Sentimentals, who I still know from Vanessa Peters’ tour with the group. I chatted with the band afterwards a bit as they also recognized me. I thing the best way to describe The Sentimental is that they’re a bit like ‘The Band’: a backingband for musicians, but from they’re from Denmark and though they do have songs of their own they are mostly backing artists from all over the world. By the way… if they’re really like The Band, I can’t wait for their take on ‘The Last Waltz’, though hopefully many years from now ;)
Anthony Da Costa is a New Yorker in Nashville and has been active in music since his early teens and it shows. The man has tremendous stage-charisma. Fantastic songs that meander between singer/songwriter-roots and a good portion of roots-rock. Terrific guy, great backingband (call me when you’re doing “The Last Waltz”!!!) and the set flew by.
Charlie Whitten -who’s up after Anthony- is a tall guy, I mean really a tall guy. And the man likes to talk too, but he soon has the audience at his lips. He can sing, that voice is terrific!
And where he usually plays with band, tonight he’s playing solo and to fill up the gaps where there ought to be solo’s, Andrew whistles and pretty darn fine too. Made me think of Andrew Bird a few times. Lovely small and intimate set.
We get one more band before a scheduled break, but what an act to end with. Hadley McCall Thackston and band. Actually is’t mostly the same setup as yesterday’s Steven Stanely Band, but now with the spotlight on Hadley and her debut album! Hadley formed her songwriting singing and playing on porches. A video eventually led her to a recording studio where Stephen Stanley was recording as well and now they’re touring together.
The Alt. Country of Hadley sounds lush and she’s a charming woman on stage. A lovely end to the first half of Saturday.
The break gives everyone the change to get some fresh air, for the die-hard music lovers to take a little time off to get some fresh air, eat something and as a Static Roots Festival tradition there’s the group photo. All of the audience and bands that are present in one big happy group. It once again really marks how great and familiar this festival is.
The break only takes so long and refreshed, fed and ready for more music we head back inside for Bennett Wilson Poole with another familiar face. Danny Wilson was here last year with Danny & The Champions. Bennett Wilson Poole is a band around Robin Bennett, Danny Wilson and Tony Poole.
Tony Pool stands out of the trio as he is easily the eldest member and has a career that started in the 1970’s with “Starry Eyed And Laughing”. The man is a genious on his Rickenbacker guitar and radiates sheer enthusiasm. As do Robin and Davy, the trio has real chemistry on stage and that shows (they get compared to Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young and not without reason). The music is awesome, the vocals and harmonies tie it all together. Supreme gig and it sets the bar for the rest of the evening.
In the 2017 edition of the Kilkenny festival Prinz Grizzley was a huge hit. Fantastic, soulful Americana that got everyone in the audience dancing, swinging or at the least tapping their feet.
But they’re not American, Canadian or even Irish… the band is from Austria and they left a huge impression at the Irish festival. Good enough for Static Roots to waste no time and book them for the Static Roots Festival of this year and they weren’t wrong. In no time at all Prinz Grizzley & His Beargaroos had the audience swinging and dancing. A fantastic set with a lot of fun on stage and in the audience.
And that audience had one more, last treat to take in… The Cordovas, a truly epic finale of the festival. It’s a big band from Nashville and Dietmar spotted them at the Take Root festival in Groningen last year and has been feverishly working to get them here and the effort paid off. Frontman Joe Firstman just oozes stage presence with a loos fitting shirt and humongous hat.
The laid back style of playing and terrific harmonies in the band keep on going and going. Literally, as the band simply refuses to quit :) In the end Charlie Whitten and Antony Da Costa join in with the band to play ‘Down by the River’. The whole scene just takes you back to the days of old. It was perfect!
But then unfortunately comes the moment that it is really over. Luckily there’s no longer a doubt about next years edition: it will come! They could do with a few more people in the audience so make sure you get your tickets for next year. You can’t find a better festival with a friendlier bunch of people!