Bad Bonn Kilbi 2015 – Photography / Review

The Bad Bonn Kilbi is a yearly open air music festival hosting 2500 people, in the small village of Düdingen in the Swiss canton of Fribourg. Promising rare, unique performances by artists off the beaten track, as well as current gems and discoveries, the festival sells out in record time each year.

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This year was no different: Featuring no apparent headliner with a big flashy name, the line up consistent of a few once-in-a-lifetime performances and acts, such as the iconic Hailu Mergia, the turkish legendary singer Selda Bağcan, or a small orchestra lead by Peter Gordon performing Arthur Russell’s Instrumentals. It further featured highly praised leftfield acts from the such as the Sleaford Mods, Shabazz Palaces, Viet Cong, Steve Gunn, Nils Frahm, and many more. In any case, the Bad Bonn Kilbi guarantees to be a discovery trip across the world of music every year anew.

On my eigth or ninth Kilbi, I decided to bring along my Leica M6, and shoot some concert photographs using good old film. As expected, it proved to be a bit of a challenge, having to shoot, meter, expose all manually, as well as thinking economically, since I only had 4 rolls of film with me. It is even more rewarding when you find out that the images turned out quite great.

So here’s a little photographic review of 2015’s Bad Bonn Kilbi, day by day. I definitely could have taken pictures of more acts than those featured here, however, as I wasn’t sure if the images were going to turn out as something useful at all, I saved it to a special few.

Day One

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Orchestre Tout Puissant Marcel Duchamp
Influenced by West African orchestras and dadaist artists alike, this Geneva, Switzerland based big band / small orchestra had their most recent album (elegantly named ROTOROTOR) produced by no one less than Mr. John Parish (PJ Harvey) himself.
This group of musicians and their vibrant, wild mélange of African polyrhythm, New Orleans marching music, and artsy noisy rock was definitely the right thing for an audience already half way down the road of a sun stroke-inducing boosy joyful evening. Great stuff, and a joy to watch.

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Tanya Tagaq
Big words were buzzing around in front of stage before Canadian performer Tanya Tagaq started off. ‘Life changing’. ‘Unforgettable’. ‘Unbelievable’. Meanwhile the young singer was sitting at the edge of the stage, happily chatting to people, with no sign of what was about to hit the audience.
Picture a possessed Yma Sumac chasing you in a nightmarish fever, and you might get close to the versatilty of Tanya’s vocals, as she screamed, laughed, yelled, bellowed, moaned, and chirped her way through the set. The singer of Inuit origins was accompanied by violin and drums, accentuating the dramatic emotions which emerged from her vocal chords in a free-form brooding, almost threatening fashion. I guess the right word would be: Memorable.

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Nils Frahm
The german-born pianist and composer Nils Frahm gave the festival’s most impressive one-man show. Stomping, organic beats were layed over vast ambient soundscapes using half a dozen different synths, pianos (some of which unique and made solely for Mr. Frahm). The performance featured a wooden on-stage organ, polyrhythmic melodies played on three different claviatures simultaneously, a grand piano played using toilet brushes (don’t worry, just a Yamaha), and a man-machine that wouldn’t sit still for a single second. The crowd was overtaken by the power of the small shy man on stage, while he was overtaken by the ravishing and loud applause at the end.

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The ambient electronic soundscapes continued on the small in-house-stage, where Swiss artist delivered some lush drones with fragile vocals. A very hypnotic and atmospheric short set.


Day Two

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Bo Ningen
A Bad Bonn Kilbi lineup wouldn’t be complete without another extrovert and completely bonkers Japanese act.
This year it was to be Bo Ningen’s turn, a prog-noise-metal band which surely would’ve won any hair-related contest. Fuzzy guitars, cheesy acid rock solos, wild grimacing and eccentric screams. While not really my kinda act, their stage performance was impressive. Does anyone know who does their hair?

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Hailu Mergia
The background story: A Ethiopian star ensemble tours the US for the first time in 1981, playing their gorgeous mix of jazz-funk and Ethiopian ethno-folk for the first time outside the dictatorship-run country. Four of the members decide to stay away and get settled in the US. Hailu Mergia, the kayboard/accordeon player, therefore continues his life as a taxi driver in Washington DC, until a chance rediscovery by a record collector and label runner.
Now, finally after over 30 years, he is back on tour, accompanied by a rhythm section of Mike Majkowski on upright bass and Tony Buck on drums, two professional jazz musicians.
The unique and memorable performance featured the classic Ethiojazz jams, which focus on tight, repetitive grooves, tireless keyboard or accordeon solos, ever stomping forward and getting loader and bigger. Initially hesitant, the crowd soon got caught by the subtropic fever and fully engaged themselves in funky dances, raving shouts and loud applauses.

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Sleaford Mods
“I used to be in bands, fuckin hated it”, says the introduction to the angry punk-hop duo of Jason Williamson and Andrew Fearn, based in Nottingham, UK. One of the most anticipated performances of the festival, with the stage bearing only a mic and laptop one could not expect the visceral and raw power that was soon to hit the place. Once Andrew hit kicked off one of the drum tracks, and Jason’s loud and angry rants engulfed the audience, all hell broke loose in front of the stage. Sweat and beer, frantic jumping, and testosterone-filled screaming, the scene for an intense experience was set.
The duo carried on relentlessly song after song, which featured words about foul managers, shitty jobs, and boat loads of profanity. By far the most convincing act of the festival.

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Selda Bağcan feat. Boom Pan
Rarely does some musician’s CV sound as eventful as the one of turkish-born legend Selda. Due to her politically charged songs and activism she was imprisoned by the Turkish government multiple times during her career during the 1970s and 80s. After being lucky to survive a serious car crash in the year 2000, she had to undergo a longer period of recovery. All this aside, it seems that nothing will stop Selda from marching on, and performing her songs all across the world.
Now, the visitors of this years Bad Bonn Kilbi got to witness her endurance live on stage. After a couple of introductory songs by the Israeli band “Boom Pam”, the lady herself got onto the stage to a gigantic applause. Going through a repertoire of her orientally infused rock songs, excellently accompanied by the Israeli musicians, the audience was not to let her leave the stage just like that. Only after the third encore, a final goodbye had to be said. What a voice.

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All images taking with a Leica M6 using Ilford Delta 3200 Pro film, developed in my own basement in Adonal. It was a great experience shooting concert photography with a 35mm film camera. Apart from making every shot count, the patience required to manually expose and focus, as well as the uncertainty of the actual results were very thrilling.
For the third and final day of the Kilbi, I used a new type of colour film, originating from movie industry film, called Cinefilm Tungsten 800 Xpro, and it’s all soon to follow this post.
Thanks for reading.

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