This coming Thursday I’m off to Germany. I’ve been many times previously but always to Hamburg and always to see music there with my great pal Karl Kruger. Sadly we lost Karl just after Easter last year and so this marks the beginning of a new chapter. But there is continuity in that it was during a visit to Hamburg, and at a show at the feted MusicStar in Nordestedt where I met Dietmar Liebecke. Dietmar being the man behind the Static Roots Festival in Oberhausen which is where I’m bound. .
That meeting was in early 2015 when Static Roots was still a glint in Dietmar’s eye; this coming weekend’s festival is the fourth and it’s already a well-established success story. For this year it has been possible, one more time, to increase the line-up which shows thirteen, very strong and very varied, acts scheduled. Here’s a little preview of who’s playing; if you can get there and you’re quick I’m sure you can still get a ticket.
There are two acts – The Cordovas and John Blek – making encore appearances on the back of recent impressive releases. Last summer’s That Santa Fe Channel was The Cordovas’ first album for six years and their first true band album; Dietmar had earlier stumbled upon them, playing their Dead-drenched roots infusions, at Take Root in Groningen and signed them up on the spot. John Blek’s Thistle And Thorn meanwhile has invoked Townes Van Zandt comparisons and features guest spots from Joan Shelly and Nathan Salsburg.
The Hanging Stars – whose frontman Richard Olson played in the legendary and much-missed British folk-rock ensemble The Eighteenth Day Of May – are psychedelic cowboys; imagine had David Crosby joined Matthews Southern Comfort; and about to drop their third album. Joana Serrat purveys a lush and dreamy country sound; she hails from Catalonia, has worked with Mojave 3’s Neil Halstead, and is signed to the UK’s Loose Music for whom she’s released two impressive collections.
John Murry is best-known for the compelling The Graceless Age, recorded some years back with American Music Club’s Tim Mooney in San Francisco; he’s now living in Ireland and remains an unpredictable yet riveting performer. East Nashville-based Californian Don Gallardo is an equally arresting roots-rocker; an excellent song-writer, who’ll be accompanied by sparky bass-player Travis Stock, and the British guitarist, once of Case Hardin, Jim Maving. Another upcoming UK band are Orphan Colours who spotlight the songs of Steven ‘Seb’ Llewellyn and comprise stage-hardened musos from Ahab, Harry Oakwood, and Danny & The Champions Of The World. From rural Oxfordshire comes traditional country songster Ags Connolly, while another Englishman, currently exiled in New York, is Luke Tuchscherer hailing from the rockier end of the americana spectrum.
Perhaps most intriguingly, and maybe offering a hint to future developments Dietmar has invited The Wave Pictures; they’ve been making intelligent and witty indie-pop for the best part of two decades, attracting comparisons with The Smiths and Suede, and collaborating with luminaries such as Darren Hayman, Billy Childish and Jeffrey Lewis along the way. Their infectious performances continue to glean supporters and it’ll be fascinating to see how they meet and conquer the Static Roots audience.
Completing the line-up are The Dawn Brothers, Joe Nolan, and The Brother Brothers. Canadian Nolan had been off Dietmar’s radar for a while after releasing the much-praised Torpedo in 2013. He reappeared last year with the intense Cry Baby, and didn’t disappoint, which meant he was a shoo-in for a Static Roots invite. The Dawn Brothers were spotted playing a small punk rock bar in Dortmund, and then seen again on the main stage at the Once In A Blue Moon Festival in their native Holland. Their blend of americana, soul, and funk has already taken them to a Rockpalast appearance. The Brother Brothers, a pair of identical twins now living in Brooklyn, take from the darker side of traditional folk, and bluegrass, with haunting songs bursting with perfect harmonies, and original arrangements. Expect goosebumps.
Spread over two days it’s all happening at the Zentrum Altenberg; an old zinc factory dating back to 1904. It was taken over by a collective for use as a social and cultural centre in 1982 and it’s grown from there. A beautiful old red-brick building with great sound and light, with an outdoor patio and beer garden, run by passionate and professional people. What with a more than promising weather forecast everything is set fair; see you at the bar.