Last weekend it was time again for Austrian Ukulele Festival. I am always super excited to go there, because it was the first ukulele festival I ever attended and so far they’ve always put on an amazing show.
This year the festival already started on Thursday with a concert at Theatercafe. Unfortunately I had to work quite late on Thursday and couldn’t make it. My journey to Graz started Friday morning with a 2,5 hour trip in my car and lots of music from past Eurovision Song Contest winners :).
Friday Workshop and Beat-Box Open Mic
Peter Luongo: “Jazzing Up Your Chords”
After a quick lunch I headed to my first workshop with Peter Luongo. He is a really great teacher and if you ever get the chance to participate in one of his workshops I highly recommend that you do. In this one hour workshop we did some chord inversions, played around with 6th and 7th and even got our ukuleles rocking a little.
Beat-Box Open Mic at Kaisers Smoked BBQ
It’s already tradition, that the festival starts out with a Beat-Box Open Mic at Kaisers Smoked BBQ. I was not brave enough to sign up to play (maybe next year) but it’s always a pleasure to see and hear so many great people play. And it’s also a great chance to meet friends and new people from the ukulele community.
Saturday Workshops and Performances
Andrew Molina: “Dynamics & Musical Awareness”
First and only workshop on Saturday for me was with Andrew Molina. I’ve already met him at GNUF but didn’t see him play there or attend a workshop. It was really nice to see him again and finally get some insights on his playing. In the workshop he talked a little about his background and showed us some chord inversions that we could work with while playing in larger groups. He also gave some tips on playing with others (which totally assured me to stay a solo act *lol*).
For the first time there was a ukulele flashmob in the city center of Graz. That was one of my highlights this weekend. Not sure how many people participated, but it was quite a crowd playing “The Lion sleeps tonight” 😉
Here’s a video that the lovely Ukulele Ambassador Diana All did:
I signed up to play at one of the open mics on Saturday. I’ll do a separate blog post about my recent experiences on stage – so stay tuned.
The artists on the main stage on Saturday were incredible – but I expected nothing less, because the lovely people organizing this festival know how to put on a great show.
So here’s who I saw on Saturday:
Wasabi is a local band from Graz. They played last year as well. Only one ukulele but nice rock sounds to start off the concerts.
Opera-lele. I swear I do not follow them around – they follow me 😉 It’s always a pleasure to see Mandi and George again. They are lovely people and I can’t get enough seeing them on stage. So I actually love, that we get to meet up at so many festivals.
Bad Mouse Orchestra is a band, that I just can’t get enough of. With their vintage tunes and appearance they take you away on a musical journey like no one else. If you’ve never seen them live, make sure to find them somewhere, I promise it’s worth it. In Graz they even brought a special Austrian song feat. Mandi Harkett. Here’s a little snippet of it:
Overdriver Duo brought a big show with lots of effects. So far I only knew them from youtube – they are currently on a European Tour, so you might be able to catch them somewhere.
Taimane Gardner brought a show to Graz, that seemed completely from another world. It’s incredible to watch her play – I have no idea how hands and fingers can move that fast. I loved that she introduced her songs with the thoughts she had while writing them and what inspired her.
Sunday Workshops and Performances
Taimane Gardner: “Experience Taimane’s Art of Flamenco & Performance”
After watching her play on stage on Saturday I was really curious as to what she could teach us in a workshop (especially to people like me who barely get a triple strum right). Turns out, that she is a very sweet and kind person (I love how the artists from Hawaii always take off their shoes and do everything barefoot) and also a pretty good teacher. She showed us some finger exercises as warm-up – this is something I want to add to my practice. Then we did some flamenco strums and triplet picking. Seeing how it’s done didn’t even take away any of the magic, because the speed in which she does it is just unbeatable.
Just like last year, the festival had a second day with lots of concerts on the main stage at Kasemattenbühne. Here’s the line-up:
Peter Luongo offered a two part workshop this weekend and the grand finale was up on main stage. They all did really well and it’s nice to see how much can be achieved in such a short term – one of the participants even played a solo. After his students Peter played a solo set, with some support of Andrew and Jay Molina. This is one of the reasons why I love ukulele festivals – there’s always some unexpected collaborations on stage.
Dani Usero is someone I, and probably most of you know from Instagram. It was a pleasure to finally meet him in person and see him perform live. He’s such a skilled ukulele player and I’m sure we’ll see a lot of him in the next years.
Nico’o and the Opihi Men. It was nice to have Nico’o back at the festival. He was the headliner at the first Austrian Ukulele Festival in 2017 and now he is back with his new band. I need to work on my french to be able to sing a long more.
Kaisers Ukulelen Combo are always my personal highlight in Graz. They are the hosts of the festival, they work their you know what off and their songs are always the best to sing along. Can’t wait to see you guys in Berlin again. I’ll be constantly singing this song until then:
Dead Mans Uke are another returning band. The first time I saw them was at the beat-box open mic at the first Austrian Ukulele Festival. I was blown away and I still am everytime I see them play. I belive they’ll be in Berlin as well, so if you haven’t had a chance to see them yet, go check out their tour dates!
Andrew Molina was the headliner Sunday evening. The festival was already a bit behind schedule, but he was able to play his full set (and a bit more) anyway. He’s another Hawaiian ukulele virtuoso and it’s such a pleasure to watch him play. It was nice to hear some classic rock tunes you usually don’t hear on ukulele.
As a special guest John, The Ukulele Teacher attended the festival. I am a huge fan and also a patreon supporter so meeting him was a special treat for me. He is a really sweet but super shy person in real life. I hope to have the chance to meet him again someday where it’s maybe a bit less stressful.
Austrian Ukulele Festival 2019 was an amazing experience for me. I met lots of old friends, made new friends and it was nice to get this feeling of belonging. I love how all the concerts are in one place, so you don’t miss anything. Maybe a bit too much excercise to get up and down the hill between workshops, but that’s just lazy me. I really hope I can be back again next year.
Here are some pictures with the lovely people I met:
PS: I brought some souvenirs from the festival – there’ll be a giveaway soon. So stay tuned!