Balance Point: 2016 Krampus Ball

December 2nd marked the fourth annual Krampus Ball. To quote Wikipedia,
“In Austro-Bavarian Alpine folklore, Krampus is a horned, anthropomorphic figure described as ‘half-goat, half-demon’, who, during the Christmas season, punishes children who have misbehaved, in contrast with Saint Nicholas, who rewards the well-behaved with gifts. Regions in Austria feature similar figures and, more widely, Krampus is one of a number of Companions of Saint Nicholas in regions of Europe.”

The highlight of the evening was the Krampus parade put on by Krampus Los Angeles, a costumed troupe intent on recreating a fun, but slightly dark, Bavarian tradition. However, to facilitate the immersiveness of the event, there were Bavarian snacks and beers, and some of the music and dance also hailed from Bavaria.

Our Master of Ceremonies for the evening was St Nicholas, played by the multitalented Rick Galiher who is perhaps better known as R.I.P. The Undertaker of Dearly Departed Tours and Gallery.

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The opening act was Ironwise, a small group of artists from a broad spectrum of influences exploring dark themes. To quote the evening’s program, “Singer Laura Shodire celebrates those of iron-strong wisdom and will, in lyrics delivered over an eclectic brew of folky rock doused in gothic ether.”

Samples of their music can be found here.

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Next, three members of the Bavarian music and dance group, G.T.E.V. D’Oberlandler, demonstrated the 10’ alpenhorn, an array of cowbells [there is no music in the world that cannot be improved with more cowbell], and folk dancing.

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Next, Christina Linhardt and Rasputin’s Marionettes demonstrated some of their macabre puppetry bringing to life the poem by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Der Erlkönig, which they translated as the goblin king, but is more properly the Elf-king or “king of the fairies”. The poem has been set to music by several composers, most notably by Franz Schubert, and this was the version which was sung by Christina, who is a classically trained singer.

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Next, Talea, a one-of-a-kind duo offered a unique mix of ambient/electronic soundscapes, tribal percussion, ambient and abrasive guitar from Topper Anthony, along with spoken word and operatic vocals from Talea Talea.

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During any breaks between performances, St Nicholas would take it upon himself to select a sinner in the audience and bring them to task.

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Finally it was time for the main event. Following a “gathering din of clanking cowbells … the ballroom doors burst open and a massed attack by the two dozen or so devils and mountain spirits of KRAMPUS LA” ensued. Talea remained on stage, to provide percussion for the Krampus appearance. While at least year’s Krampus Ball the devils and mountain spirits circled through the audience a number of times, this year, after the first circuit, they were invited on stage. St Nicholas then invited a number of the sinners on stage, one by one, and had them walk from one end to the other while being beaten by birch sticks so as to atone for their sins.

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Here’s my film footage from part of the ordeal faced by the sinners:

https://www.facebook.com/Tony.Mierzwicki/videos/vb.100000033427117/1339384932739275/?type=3&theater

Looking around at the audience, the reaction was the same as at every other Krampus event I have been to – everyone was smiling and laughing. Even though the Krampus legend is traditionally used to scare children into being good, it is actually a lot of fun.

Following on from the main event can be challenging, but Hammerstein Musik Bavaria rose to the occasion. This 4-piece ensemble is fronted by Bavarian-born Andreas Becket, and also includes an accomplished accordion player wearing a chicken on her head, a tuba player and a drummer. They describe themselves as an authentic Bavarian polka rock band. Their music was primarily traditional Bavarian peppered with Schuhplattler dances [Bavarian slap dancing] and yodeling. Remember “I’m Too Sexy” by Right Said Fred? These guys did a version that began with “I’m too sexy for my Krampus” which brought the house down.

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The band is best known for Wienerschnitzel’s Bratwurst commercial made in time for Oktoberfest 2016.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DYE5vNyj-k4

All in all, it was a great evening, and was just as much fun as last year’s event. Now I’ve got to wait a full year for the next ball!

Here’s a link to my Facebook photos from the event from this year – 2016 Krampus Ball.

Here’s a link to my Facebook photos from last year – 2015 Krampus Ball.

Tony Mierzwicki

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