Joho, alles für den Plot: Auf Hochsee mit Santiano

In the Anglo-American youth language, there is a lovely expression that is becoming more and more popular here: „doing it for the plot“. It means to see oneself as a character in a story. When someone does something „for the plot“, they are not doing it because it is logical or expected, but rather out of a thirst for experience. Does basil-garlic ice cream sound terrible? Doesn’t matter, do it to have something to tell: „for the plot“.

Maybe it can be explained by the „plot“ that the author of this column found himself a few weeks ago in the sold-out Berlin Waldbühne, surrounded by an audience whose average age far exceeded his own, and at a band that he might never have watched under different circumstances: Santiano. For over ten years now, the five-member male group has been touring the country with their sailor songs-rock. They have won the Echo award four times in the category of „folk music“ and twice the chart prize of a public broadcasting folk music show. And: All five albums, from their 2012 debut „Bis ans Ende der Welt“ to their latest „Wenn die Kälte kommt,“ reached number 1 on the German album charts.

The Berlin Minister of Culture, Joe Chialo, understood the demand for entertainment from the Germans when he signed Santiano to his Universal sub-label, Airforce1 Records. The escape into the world that Santiano portrays with their compositions inspired by Irish folk songs is very well received. This concept appeals to a broad audience: children enjoy the harmless sailor tales, the loud „Joho,“ the bouncing three-quarter rhythm, and the aesthetics from adventure novels. However, it is not entirely clear what primarily motivated the columnist to immerse himself in the high-sea bards from Schleswig-Holstein: the desire of the six-year-old who accompanied him or the wish of the sixty-year-old who brought the single-digit age? Or perhaps the idea that having seen a Santiano concert once in a lifetime could be beneficial for the „plot“?

„I cannot reword“

Just like the two companions, the highly diverse audience, ranging from a tattooed Union Berlin fan to a laid-back hippie, is completely thrilled by the band. Throughout the hour and a half-long show, the five middle-aged individuals, one of whom is no longer able to perform on stage due to health reasons, not only play guitar, bass, and drums but also violin, mandolin, and harmonica, accompanied by a meticulously choreographed light and video show and, of course, fireworks. The warm summer night doesn’t quite fit with the open sea, but it adds to the overall atmosphere.

The fans know how to sing along to the hits, chanting „All those who sail with us on a pirate voyage must be men with beards,“ passionately shouting „Full speed ahead, Santiano!“ and more that is similar but not too much. Rarely do the musicians break character, allowing themselves a short break with a wink to their age or emphasizing once that their songs should not be politically misunderstood: „Terms like ‚freedom‘ and ‚homeland‘,“ with which the band has been „naively“ dealing, are starting to appear „more and more in a musty, brown light.“ The remarkable statement receives not ecstatic, but well-deserved applause.

Unter Freiheit versteht derweil der Sechsjährige, gehen zu können, wenn er müde ist, und auch das ist freilich verdient. Der Kolumnist zieht vor der Zugabe ab. Das war sie nun, die Reise auf der Santiano in Berlin. Und war sie nicht gut, so insgesamt, als Erlebnis, als Erinnerung – gar nicht so sehr nur „für den Plot“?