26. May 2014, Zakk, Düsseldorf, Germany
When 13 to 14 musicians and more instruments than I can count or put a name to come together on one stage, I’m sure it’s going to be an interesting evening. That’s exactly what it was like when 17 Hippies played a concert in Düsseldorf. In a nicely filled hall and in front of an enthusiastic audience they played for well over two hours. They sang in French, in German or in English, and sometimes they just let the music speak. They changed instruments as well as positions on stage and got everyone in the audience to participate, because it was impossible to stand still while listening to them.
At the entrance a sign read the concert would begin at 8:30 instead of 8:00, but the additional waiting time hardly bothered anyone. The hall had been a bit empty in the beginning, but filled quickly. 17 Hippies were greeted with much applause and started playing without further ado. The first song was a French one, but this was not the only language sung that night. They also switched instruments and singers. Everyone who was on stage got their moment in the spotlight, like the violinist who played the singing saw (!) for the first time during the second or third song, or the percussionist, who played a washboard with spoons. There was a lot of movement, and at times I had no idea who to look at first. Soon I stopped wondering about additional instruments showing up and just let the music carry me. All the different instruments always created a beautiful whole.
I’m not entirely sure how to describe this music. There were elements from different genres and influences from many countries. The band told us they wanted to cover songs that nobody would expect them to perform and played Frank Zappa’s “Peaches En Regalia” or “Work Song” by Bill Laswell. The sang a children’s song about a sad frog prince just as well as the song “Hinter den Hügeln” (beyond the hills) they had translated from Spanish, played a waltz as skillfully as a rumba and much more.
The audience was enthusiastic from the beginning, clapped and danced along. 17 Hippies thanked us by adding interesting stories to their amazing music. Some were explanations of the songs or comments on their current album “Biester”, others were memories of their teenage years. The told us how they had different guest on percussion for each song on the album and that one of these guest was now touring with them.
Apart from intoxicating melodies and diverse songs that immediately made me feel like dancing, it was pure fun, just to watch the band and wonder which instrument they might be playing next. They played guitar, bass and violin, clarinets, trumpet and saxophone, accordion and percussion, but also ukulele, banjo, flutes, washboard, saw, triangle and a few instruments I had never or rarely seen before. The music alone told many stories, the singing only added to that. The lyrics ranged from melancholic to funny, told more stories. All in all it was an entertaining evening that left me hoping for more.
Author and photographer: Stefanie Oepen