Ústí nad Labem, are you ready to rock?!

Nazareth, photo: CTK

As always there was plenty going on at the Karlovy Vary film festival this year. Alongside the marathon of movies, there were bars and beer tents, swanky soirees and grotty clubs. There were also a number of live concerts, with perhaps the most unlikely the appearance of Boney M in a nite spot in the basement of the festival’s centre, the Thermal hotel.

Nazareth,  photo: CTK
Unlikely perhaps, but not actually that surprising, as Boney M (or at least some version of Boney M) frequently perform ancient hits like Daddy Cool and Rasputin here in the Czech Republic, not only in provincial discos but, according to a piece on the subject in the newspaper Lidové noviny, at “bizarre private events and company functions”.

The once multi-million selling German disco outfit are by no means the only western pop or rock group from their era still plying their dated wares in this part of the world. Venues in places like Liberec and Mladá Boleslav often host the likes of Smokie, Suzi Quatro, the Sweet and Slade, who are invariably billed as “legends”.

Earlier this year Nazareth began a European tour…at the Lidový dům in the grey Prague suburb of Kbely. One can only imagine that the grizzled Scottish hard rockers are so far off today’s musical map that they are likely to draw a bigger crowd in a local civic hall in Kbely than in the relatively sophisticated centre of the Czech capital.

Lack of competition may explain why Smokie and their ilk prefer to flog the old hits in provincial towns such as Ústí nad Labem rather than in the Big Smoke: unlike in Ústí, Prague concert-goers also have the chance of getting to see contemporary idols like Coldplay and Anastacia.

Charles University sociologist Jana Duffková suggested to Lidové noviny that the continued ability of the likes of the Sweet to draw crowds here represented a distinct form of nostalgia. It is not eastern Germany’s ostalgia for the communist past, she said. Rather it is a kind of ‘westalgia’ for a free youth that Czechs of a certain age never got to experience for themselves in the 1970s and ’80s.

Long-faded stars of yesteryear performing songs like Living Next Door to Alice or Brown Girl in the Ring may seem an odd symbol of the west. But, you know, whatever floats your boat.