Sunday 19 April 2015

Bavaria, Brass and Beer with 'LaBrassBanda' in Norwich

'A night of brass and beer' is how the Norwich Arts Centre programme described Friday night's musical event, with two of my favourite local bands, Feral Mouth and Killamonjambo, heating up the stage in preparation for special guests LaBrassBanda. 

Now I have to proffer an apology for being woefully unfamiliar with LaBrassBanda before turning up on Friday night, although that has never previously stopped me from having a good time. Sometimes it is the band of whom I know least that ends up impressing me the most. But the more I found out about LaBrassBanda, the more I felt that I should have been more aware of them.

Originally formed by five friends in Bavaria in 2007, LaBrassBanda has evolved into a 'Volksmusik' phenomenon that has played to tens of thousands of music lovers at festivals all over Europe. They have released five albums, the last two, 'Europa' and 'Kiah Royal', both making the top four in the German album charts. Although two of the founder members have since moved on, the band has now swelled to eight, creating an impressive wall of brass on a festival stage in front of thousands. Tonight they are squeezing themselves onto the more modest stage of the Norwich Arts Centre.

But before the excitement of witnessing genuine Lederhosen on a Norfolk stage, we have the pleasure of 'Feral Mouth', a legend of more local proportion.

Feral Mouth

Formed in Norwich five years ago, Feral Mouth bring together a group of six musicians with a knack of adding a contemporary edge to the traditions of old time country and bluegrass. Using banjo and steel guitar alongside cello, drum and double bass, they never fail to impress with their commitment to keeping the 'folk' in 'Norfolk'. A 'band's band', they seem to know everyone on the local music scene, and were last seen at NAC bringing the Addison's Uncle album launch to a stomping climax back in January. 

Killamonjambo need no introduction to anyone 'au fait' with the Norwich music scene. Seven lively characters with a love of reggae and ska that exude endless energy on stage, as well as a knack of losing their shirts before the end of the opening number. Real showmen as well as displaying an authentic love for the music, it was great to hear news of their new recording deal that now links them to a major label. In the meantime, their album debut 'Fiesta Moon Landin' remains available for recreating that sweaty ska-funk atmosphere within your own sitting room.


In fact, it is partly as a result of the Killamonjambo boys that LaBrassBanda are here tonight, the two bands having bonded over a few steins at a previous reggae festival across the water, and the Bavarians are already on stage for the KJ's final number, swelling the number of musicians onstage to Barclay-busting proportions.

But it's time to change into those Lederhosen and T-shirts for the climax of the evening as Stefan Dettl, looking uncannily like a Bavarian Keith Lemon, leads his band onstage for an hour of unrivalled fun, oom-pah, techno, reggae, funk, folk and punk, and any other genre of music that it is humanly possible to play with brass band instruments accompanied by bass guitar and two percussionists.

Dettl is quick to ingratiate himself to his Norfolk audience, initially claiming to speak only Bavarian, but soon having the whole floor choreographed into an eight-step 'Soul Train' dance move, re-creating his childhood wish to be the 'white kid' from KC and The Sunshine Band. The reggae number 'I Love The Batty Man' is the LBB secret weapon against homophobia with the wonderful hook-line, 'Batter my banana' A tongue-in-cheek brass medley of German Top 40 hits spins from 'Rock Me Amadeus' to '99 Red Balloons', but has the audience joining in and giving it large.

A final treat for the Norwich Arts Centre crowd is a mingled finale with all eight members of the band down on the floor performing as one with the audience. A wonderful end to a wonderful evening, and grateful thanks to the promoter Paul Wilson from WRR for pulling off such a coup for Norfolk music lovers.

That's 'V for Volksmusic' from LaBrassBanda's Stefan Dettl

Batter My Banana! - LaBrassBanda loves the Batty Man

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