A look behind the scenes at the KunstRasen

Bonn. The Bonner KunstRasen started the new season on the weekend. While fans are celebrating in front of the stage, the organizer and his staff ensure a smooth process. A look behind the scenes.

Where is Ernst? Production manager Igor Fuks-Markovic stands in the middle of the container village and looks around. “I just talked to him,” says Simon Rausch, who is responsible for sound and light. He turns up. Ernst Ludwig Hartz, organizer of the KunstRasen open-airs, wears slippers, a gray three-quarter pants, a Joe Jackson T-shirt and a blue towel around his neck. He is on a bike on the way across the extensive grounds in Bonn Gronau.

It’s just after eight o’clock. Another eight and a half hours to the entrance to the first concert with Tears for Fears and Kim Wilde. Behind the stage is a semi-trailer, out of which the engineering crew (“Stagehands”) roll containers and cable reels out. Rolling platforms for the drums and keyboards are upholstered in black felt. Opposite in the tower with the mixer, the PA crew goes through the instructions of the artists (“Rider”). In the VIP tent and the food and beverage booths around the meadow, men and women brush and wipe the counters, set up chairs and benches.

At the gate to the Artist Village hangs a picture of Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith: “These are the artists Tears for Fears. Please do not ask them for a pass “, it says in English. 40 security people are in action today. The artists’ village consists of a few containers arranged in such a way that together with the kitchen of the caterer they form a small space. Behind them are the production offices of the artists and von Hartz. The so-called start trailer with its own showers and toilets Orzabal and Smith have left their band, they prefer to go into separate cloakrooms. Are these two still not green? It is well-known that the British artists keep getting their hands on things. Hartz shrugs.

Hartz gets tea. He has just inspected the cloakrooms and made sure that everything is prepared. Kim Wilde gets 40 white bath towels and 15 little black ones for the stage, Tears for Fears get 70 bath towels and 20 small ones. The catering for the artists and the crew is taken over by a caterer from Cologne, who receives a list of all wishes beforehand. “The times when we supplied the artists themselves are long gone,” says Hartz. At that time in the 80s, his mother still provided for cold plates. Today, the kitchen offers chicken and Asian as well as vegetarian and vegan dishes.

The production people of the artists are already there, in front of the office of Tears for Fears are two container towers full of technology and equipment, in the not even ten square meters large space, two employees are already working on the preparations of the next tour stations. A tall, broad-shouldered guy with a shaved head presents himself to Toby Henn as the personal bodyguard of Smith and Orzabal. He wears knee-length pants and a muscle shirt. One of the many tattoos stands out on the calf: it marks him as an early Navy Seal.

1500 to 2000 pages applications

Toby Henn has a double job today. He is responsible for security and superstructures. In front of the stage there are instructions on where the barriers must be set up. Katrin Weinreis approaches with a forklift truck. The 32-year-old Managing Director of KunstRasen GmbH is responsible for the entire infrastructure. She is wearing a short jumpsuit, Timberland work boots and a straw hat. In the hand a cell phone and a radio. From change for the food stalls to the technical arrangements with the artist management – she takes care of everything. And the coordination for the construction has mastered them in the last weeks as well. “There is only one driveway on the site. Everything must be exactly scheduled. And alas, a tractor-trailer is stuck in traffic, “she laughs.

In autumn / winter the preparations already started. She has sent 1500 to 2000 pages of applications and reports for the permits from the authorities alone. “Do you see the water containers over there for soundproofing? They are filled with Rhine water and will later be tipped back again. Of course you need a permit from the Upper Water Authority, “she says, calling Henn for the front-of-the-line barriers. Almost 100 people work on the square on this day. “Everyone knows what he has to do. We work together with many great service providers. Somehow it’s all rock’n’roll, but a great collaboration, “she says.

Your partner Martin J. Nötzel is on the pitch with the sound engineers. “The technology is getting better. With many technical terms he explains how the PA speakers are placed on the stage and in front of them, the bass subwoofers underneath the stage and the so-called delay line, the loudspeakers on the square, so that really only the square is illuminated. Then he gets a phone call and walks with his son to the car. Where? “We have too few keg-taps,” he says and is gone.

“Kim needs another pillow”

“Kim is coming!” It’s noon. The gate to the street opens. A black Mercedes sedan followed by two black vans drives in. Kim Wilde gets out. Hair stuck together, leather jacket with rhinestone brooches. She takes off her sunglasses, looks around. “Lovely,” she says. All good. “Miss Wilde, do you remember Bonn?” She looks questioningly at her manager. “They shot videos between the big golden vases over there in Kameha.” “Oh, that was here?” She smiles and disappears in the dressing room.

Where is Ernst? Igor Fuks-Markovic finds him again and finds Hartz in the production office, where boxes and bags of towels are piled up. Printer, telephone and laptop have been connected this morning. In the corner hangs a white ironed shirt. For tonight. Fuks-Markovic pokes his head through the door. “Kim still needs a pillow.” Sylvester Richter, Hartz ‘stepson and assistant, squeezes past him and puts the readers, which are later used for the entrance, on the table. “They still have to be loaded,” he says and is already through the door again.

And now Katrin Weinreis and Simon Rausch are in the door. It’s about the soundcheck. Kim’s group does one, Tears for Fears want everything to be prepared so that they can get on stage right away when they come. They are already in Bonn, but come on the field only at short notice.

Wild parties after the concerts

Hartz looks relaxed. “After 42 years, this is all routine,” says the 59-year-old and looks to the sky. He is blue as a baby blanket. A perfect weather for the start of the season. He had the first big concerts in the 80s with Genesis and Peter Gabriel. Then came Michael Jackson, U2, Pink Floyd and many others. Hartz has already experienced so much that nothing bothers him. “The Stone Temple Pilots were on tour a good ten years ago and were to come from London to Cologne. The band was there in the afternoon, but singer Scott Weiland missed the flight and there was no connection. We brought him there by car. “

Sylvan gets a cold water. He adapted the WLan, organized the entrance, picked up new programs, set up the production offices. What he likes best about the job? “The artist contacts,” he says immediately. Who is especially nice? “With the sports friends Stiller, we sat together until 2 o’clock after the concert. And there’s also a wild party here after the concerts, “he says and smiles. He is as silent as he is his stepfather. “Artists are only human,” says Hartz. But they do not tell you more. “There are secrets and discretion is part of the business,” says Sylvan. Bob Dylan is said to have come seven years ago on foot on the Rhine from the hotel to the KunstRasen and was not recognized in tracksuits and sunglasses. Is that correct? “Dylan likes to go for a walk,” says Sylvan only.

Kim Wildes band has changed in the meantime. All in sportswear. They go jogging and yoga in the Rheinaue. Keyboarder Lukes later tells at lunch that the music is just a side job of his. His main occupation is selling shoes from Karl Lagerfeld from Paris.

Nothing works without contacts

Another hour to the inlet. There is much more movement in the square. Wine rice travels from place to place by forklift. Meanwhile, Dirk Wilms, Martin Schneiders, Janning fly and Kai Nils Becker from the volunteer fire department Lannesdorf have already taken a stand and watch the hectic bustle. At the snack and drink stands last instructions are given.

The managements of the artists inform Hartz about which photographers are allowed and from where they are allowed to shoot for how long. And then it starts. Hartz stands backstage as Kim Wilde and band, all in black, step up the ramp. A short view. Everything runs.

The VIP lounge is well filled. Bonn-Ticket has invited customers and business partners. Hartz is still wearing his shorts, but now has his white shirt on. He walks through the groups, stays here, sometimes stands there. And then it’s gone again. Small talk is not his thing. “It’s part of the job,” he says. He prefers to move in the music scene. He has long since made a name for himself. “Nothing works without contacts and good relationships with artists and agencies,” he says as we walk back to his office. In the background, Kim Wilde sings “Never Trust a Stranger”.

“Get me a cold Kölsch”

“When we started here in 2012 and brought in people like Patti Smith, Lou Reed and Bob Dylan in the first season, it was only because the artists trusted us. Usually they do not play in new, untried places,” says Hartz. “I worked on Sting for three years to get him to Bonn.”

What else does he have to do now? “Settlements. That’s right after the show, “says Hartz and delves into his computer. Of many concerts, he says, he might only get half an hour. There were bands like Pink Floyd or U2, so he invited his team to a concert in another city afterwards so everyone could see the whole show. Last year he flew to Arcade Fire’s office in Manchester (“which unfortunately we did not host”).

When Tears for Fears arrive at 8:17 pm, the audience cheers. Hartz is nowhere to be seen. At “Advice for the Young at Heart” he stands on the VIP terrace. After their Radiohead cover of “Creep” he just says “class” and disappears. At 10 pm, the place is almost empty again, a call on the phone. “Get me a cold Kölsch. I’ll be there in a minute.” Shortly after ten, he stops by his friends and drinks his first beer.  They tip their bottles. “Good start, Ernst.”