The Formative Years – Rockpalast
In times long before the advent of the internet and its algorhythmic echo chambers along with the possibility to check out any music and gain access to background information anywhere at any time via the push of a button, it proved to be a tad more difficult to experience a band in concert – especially when one was a pre-teenager in time long before MTV was made available in the old world.
However, there was a unique show that has existed for literally longer than I can remember: Incepted by Peter Rüchel, Rockpalast started broadcasting live on German television station Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR) in 1974 and has to this day covered hundreds of individual live performances in all their glory, before it branched out to sponsoring festivals and covering them as well, often in the form of all-nighters.
What started as a mere TV show quickly evolved to become an institution with a fixed weekly air time afterhours and covering an array of artists and bands the selection of which was not confined to the dictate of mainstream media with an unrivalled open-mindedness no matter if was rock, pop, hip hop, heavy metal or anything in between. Rockpalast is one of the few TV shows where I very early on felt reassured that given the variety and turf they were covering, the only criterion for the selection of bands and performances was quality: It was obvious that they cared about the music, no matter if it was newcomers or established acts.
Given the dedication of the Rockpalast team, the presenters of which became inextricably linked to the show, most prominently Alan Bangs and Albrecht Metzger, they managed to convey the immediacy of a live show and more often than not, it seemed like the respective artists’ performances were elevated as well – watching the shows as a kid it felt raw, electrifying and intense, no matter if it was The Policy, David Bowie, Grateful Dead, The Who, The Kinks or Pattie Smith.
Watching Rockpalast became an event.
Rockpalast still broadcasts on a weekly basis and most of its fantastic archive is freely available. The mothership has also branched out to new formats, e.g. excellent documentaries that are produced in collaboration with the European free-to-air television network ARTE.
image from company website