Posted by: Tobias | November 24, 2008

Rockpalast Festival Review

Who could say no to a mini-festival with six bands, some of which would have justified the ticket price of 30 Euros alone? And so me, my brother and one of his friends went to Essen on Saturday to listen to some music and generally enjoy ourselves. Here’s what we got to see:

The Rascals

Maybe I’m getting old or maybe it’s because I listened to other music growing up and modern British Rock is more of an acquired taste, but this band just sounded loud and boring to me. Their strategy seems to be to (1) find a catchy guitar hook, (2) play it over and over and over again, (3) come up with some trivial lyrics and finally (4) crank up the volume so no one will listen closely enough to hear how serious deficient they are as instrumentalists. The drummer couldn’t hold a steady beat and the guitarist wasn’t exactly born with a gift either. Their great inspiration seem to be the Arctic Monkeys. Sadly, they lacked all that makes the Arctic Monkeys great.


Just one word: boring

The Fleet Foxes
I’d listen to their album and EP before and didn’t quite get it, I suppose, upon first listen. But not only do these bearded Seattleites seem to be all-around nice guys, they’re also very entertaining. And did I mention the music is great though hard to describe? Just check it out! Anyone who pulls off 3-part harmonies effortlessly is at least a decent musician in my book. And their music is basically all about 3-part harmonies.

Donovan Frankenreiter

Jack Johnson’s surfing buddy makes pretty enjoyable, relaxing music and had a group of musicians assembled around him that was probably the the best to be on stage all night. Yes, his songwriting is pretty bland and the songs get kind of repetitive after a while, but they all have a good feel to them and are nice to dance to.

Ben Folds

Even after I’d already seen two gigs of his this year (one solo in Bochum and one at a festival in Bonn) that, quite frankly, I wasn’t blown away by, I still had high expectations for Ben Folds. You see, a concert of his that I attended 3 years ago in Berlin still ranks amongst the best concerts I’ve ever seen. The gigs I’d seen so far this year hadn’t even come close. Then he was likable, funny and talkative and the music was great in all respects, made even better by the fact that only die-hard fans seemed to be in attendance that knew when and how to clap and sing along to every song. This year he hardly spoke at all and played mostly material from his new CD which, I’m sad to say, simply doesn’t have the quality that his earlier songs, the songs that I fell in love with almost instantly, have. Still, I was hopeful that maybe this time it would be better. I got even more excited when the roadies carried equipment for not three but five people on stage, a totally new setup for him.
In the end, however, the gig was disappointing. Again. Again, he played little of the old material. In fact he played none of the songs from his Ben Folds Five days, which I still consider his best, most intelligent and most energetic work. So, no “One Angry Dwarf”, no “Battle of Who Could Care Less”, no “Emaline” and none of the great sing-a-longs “Bitches ain’t shit” or “Army”, but instead a few Rocking The Suburbs classics, “Landed” and then a collection of songs from the new record, interspersed with alternative versions from the album he leaked intentionally earlier this year. And though the additional two people did make some of the songs sound much better than they do on CD, it’s still pretty weak. Strangely, I thought the alternative versions, most of which he improvised in a few hours before he recorded them, are actually better songs than the originals. Needless to say the audience wasn’t full of fans either so there was no audience participation whatsoever. So, in the end, the whole set wasn’t exactly bad, but knowing how good this guy can be and how much the set fell short of that, it was still pretty disappointing.


Perhaps the best known band at the festival, they had the privilege of playing last, starting shortly before midnight. And though the music has never been completely my cup of tea, the guys were so friendly and nice, I couldn’t help but like them now. Solid throughout, but the best part was the encore: Because the PA had produced an audible feedback during the entire concert, the lead singer just told the sound engineer to turn the PA off and they played an acoustic version of “Flowers in the Window”. And being in a group of about 2000 people, all huddling and trying to get closer to the stage to be able to hear a song better is a pretty cool feeling. I can hardly convey that feeling, but here’s a video of the song that someone taped with their camera:



  1. […] good session with the Fleet Foxes at the Grand Paleis, the band that I was so impressed with at the Rockpalast Festival last week. Indeed, it seems to be a little treasure trove for intimate recordings of some of my […]

  2. I really appreciate this post: nice to read these reviews, well done.

  3. […] I wrote in my recent concert review, this is a bit of an acquired taste. I didn’t like the music much the first time I listened […]

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