Well, I have completely failed at updating this with any frequency.

My summer musical adventures have been limited. Freiburg is not exactly Berlin when it comes to live music. That being said, we did have a few big festivals this past month that I did not end up attending. The Zelt Music Festival featured Iron and Wine, among many others over a multiple week stretch, but nothing particularly brought me out to that. I almost went to see Olafur Arnalds, but I was too tired after a biking tour that day. Then there was Sea of Love, some sort of Electro/DJ festival where Tiesto and David Guetta performed. I went to a German rap concert, which was fun for the sake of the experience. White boys younger than me were aggressively shouting about the environment and houses and stuff like that. I didn’t catch too much violent language about women, drugs, or guns, but maybe it was there and I just couldn’t understand it because of my limited knowledge of German slang (and German, in general).

In any case, my first very positive music experience was right here in the city of Freiburg. This past Saturday, when I was visiting the city library, I saw a poster for a free concert that evening. I’m normally skeptical, but I read that there was supposedly a German/Russian psychedelic rock back and a jazz act as well. I decided I would check it out if I happened to be in the area later during the evening. After walking around a giant flea market, I made my way over to Adlerstraße 12. My first impressions were great. The courtyard venue was some hippie dippie cooperative living thing straight out of a counter-cultural dream. I enjoyed partaking – I got myself a sticker protesting the Pope’s visit to Freiburg, because of his human rights offenses. The bar serving drinks was a makeshift outdoor stand behind construction scaffolding. And around the corner, some people were mashing together various vegetables to make homemade veggie burger patties to grill up for the event visitors.

The first performance was the jazz group. I don’t remember their name, but to be completely honest, it was kind of amateur. They played some vocal jazz standards, some old Miles Davis, and some Girl from Ipanema, which was quite boring, but my biggest criticism has to be with the drummer. He really struggled to keep time. And jazz requires a very precise sense of rhythm. I ducked out a little before the performance finished and moved my way into the Soviet-themed inner courtyard, where the psych band was supposed to play next.

The location was so strange and perfect. Nearby was a cocktail bar with the items written in Russian, which made it difficult for the guests to order. When Seine Verspätung finally came on (appropriate considering the translation of their name is ~ “his delay”), the young crowd that had gathered sprawled around the unorthodoxviewing area – some sat on their bottoms with their legs crossed and smoked, while some stood by the bar, some sat on steps leading up to courtyard apartments, and some laid on couches nearby. Initially the band did not impress me. The first few songs were… songs… and acoustic-guitar led ballads sung in Russian with unobtrusive keys and drums. During the soundcheck I heard some organ, and so I was hoping with instrumentation of acoustic and electric guitar, electric bass, drums, and keyboard, that the keyboard/organ may play a prominent role in the sound. The band started to rely more and more on the found sounds and strange layers of noise that they would play off of a laptop. A few songs in, people started looking around impatiently, while the band let a minimal sample play for around 5 minutes. And from there on, it got quite interesting. Their sound moved more towards heavy, mathy plods, with long instrumental passages, incorporating disparate jazzy key solos, distorted guitar noise, and chanting, growling vocals. I think my favorite part of the performance was when the band began one of its encores with an “acoustic” piece (the band referred to the songs as “pieces,” or “Stücke”). They were much more interested in creating strange layers of harmonics and feedback with toy instruments and the vocals ended up almost completely ignored. The latter half of the set stretched along and the entire performance was around 1h 45min (they were supposed to end much earlier because of conflicting performances in the main courtyard). And perhaps the best part about it was that they won over the crowd with their unique blend of decidedly uncompromising strangeness and experimentation. The crowd embraced the band’s rejection of structure and gave quite an ovation when the performance ended. And there were kids running around playing soccer behind the stage. Oh Europe.

I walked through the thrift store to the main courtyard, where I caught the end of some melodramatic power ballad quartet. Luckily I only heard the last two songs. The main stage was torn down to prepare for the headlining group, the funk/ska ensemble, the Madis’son Brass Band. They came on storming and the crowd had swelled to well over  5000 people. It wasn’t particularly my kind of thing, but it was good fun. Very upbeat, bouncy, and I know the rest of the crowd loved it. The local Freiburg band (2 saxaphones, 2 trumpets, 2 trombones, 1 horn, 1 sousaphon, and a drummer) earned several encores and played a mix of American popular music pastiches and original compositions. It was kind of samey, but they weren’t there to impress me, they were there to get everyone around me dancing, which they accomplished.

In the future I promise to avoid a diary-like approach. No one wants to hear “roommate radio” and I’m sure my 5 monthly viewers of the blog could care less about which beer I drank on which day.