After a two-hour train ride and ten minutes in the car, we were standing outside of Café Central in Weinheim and the first notes of Mambo Kurt’s set were there to greet us. Inside the medium-sized pub was sardine-can full. On a raised stage behind a wood-paneled electronic organ (a so-called Heimorgel), sat Mambo Kurt, and he was singing Slayer.
The crowd, sweaty and enthusiastic, were dancing like this was the best dance music they’d ever heard. People swayed, people jumped, people sang along, and people stage-dived. And Mambo Kurt sang ABBA, Slayer, Stevie Wonder, Dr. Albern, die Kassierer, and a whole bunch of German pop songs that I’d never heard before. The crowd went wild. I watched skeptically from the side of the room.
Kurt started playing the electric organ as a kid, and it just didn’t pan out to be the kind of instrument that gets you any points with the ladies, he joked onstage. But later, Kurt started playing covers, mostly of metal songs, in a small circle of friends, and he quickly became a hit. He’s played the German heavy metal festival Wacken, and he’s played a theater festival in Wiesbaden. He’s turned Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” into a waltz, Rage Against the Machine into swing, Nirvana into a mambo, and Tina Turner into high-speed polka. With Mambo Kurt, it seems, there is always a little something for everyone.
People who like Mambo Kurt—and he seems to be the kind of artist that you either love or you hate—say that his music “gets right into your legs.” It’s utterly danceable, it’s hilarious, and without ever having even heard of him before, you can sing along to almost every song.