“It’s fun, but I take it serious. I want to keep humour in it. To spread joy & happiness and colour. To make people smile.”
I might as well have packed up and gone home before I even started the new story ride. Except, I was already packed, I could have just gone straight home.
I met Jonas, brainparent (is that a term?) of VeloConcerts and his beautiful, colourful e-cargo-bike-come-fully-functional-stage on the first day of arriving in Vienna in November.
He was at the edge of the boisterous and joyfully indignant Fridays for Future protest? Celebration? Demonstration? A little bit of all three.
Colours and colours and colours and colours
His brightly coloured, interestingly shaped bike that was just folding away its wings instantly caught my eye, and he instantly and generously caught my mind. We chatted enthusiastically, he took it in his stride that I’d just come off almost twelve days of trains from China. We walked and chatted as the procession? Entourage? Congregation? Got underway to move towards their final destination outside the environment office of the Vienna council.
I could tell instantly his was a story I had to tell. More than that. I was pretty sure he so fully encapsulated what I thought, or think (my thoughts are still developing) of as the new story that I’d be as well to write it up and go home. So its taken me a while.
He scooted, and then biked off ahead as he had to get ahead of the party? Group? Mob? to get the stage ready for the speeches, chants and impassioned pleas. I caught up with him just as he was positioning the bike, and getting it ready to open its beautiful curving wings. It’s like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, only incredible and modern. I jumped at the opportunity to give him a hand. How much help I was is open to debate, but we nonetheless had the stage ready, just as the horde? Gang? Troupe? noisily arrived.
Jonas hooked up the custom made electric guitar, turned on the amp, connected the Mic – all of which is powered by the bike’s battery and transported in the cargo space created by the stage ‘wings’. I watched as he whipped out his tablet and controlled all the levels on the stage (or some other such techno Wizardry) and the sound was clear and loud. Normally at these types of rallies? Gatherings? Shindigs? you get one or the other.
Take it to the bridge (streets)
“I want to take the party to the street and everywhere”
I was, and am, in awe. And I was fortunate enough eventually to actually speak to him properly recently over the phone from the bar of a Pensione just over the border into Italy before a frosty but cosy night’s bivvying in their garden? large field? edge of the forest?
I like Jonas’ vision for how Veloconcerts can really change things, it’s already bringing a new type of concert experience. And he’s got plans for playing with the form of what concerts are, and who can enjoy them.
Jonas is a musician at heart, and at profession. He was an international touring classical guitarist for 15 years, jetting off every couple of weeks to play gigs. Whilst at home, especially after having kids, he was buying local, avoiding packaging, and eating vegetarian.
Velo, is it me your looking for?
He wanted to bring his work and passion in line with his values, and he’d had the idea of Veloconcerts for a long time. And the moment came for him to go for it. And to do it with passion, joy and quality. It was important that what he created be a high quality, attractive party machine. And like (most) good projects he worked with some ideal people. The graphic designer Daniel Domic nailed an eye-catching colour scheme that tells of something joyful contained within the bike, and the branding is all high quality and attractive to just about anybody.
The technical wizardry of the bike to actually make for a decent amount of concert time, once it got to a location and ease of use was achieved by Jakob Illera of Inseq Design. Jonas raved about how Jakob had brought to life the vision he’d had for Veloconcerts.
He makes anything possible, and it looks simple
He wanted it to be “plug and play” so anyone could use it and get straight to spreading music, or words and that’s just what it is.
Impossible is just a word
Veloconcerts allows performances to reach places they couldn’t have before. And with plans to link up with additional bike-mounted Bluetooth speakers, to take forms they’ve not been able to before. Jonas told me about a 180km trip he took the bike on where he was averaging 25km/hr, he’s taken it up hills and even off-road.
The next concert is outdoors (as most of them are) in winter, and so the technical side is one thing but he’s also researching fingerless gloves and how to keep the battery warm enough, as cold kills batteries like nobody’s business.
Jonas chose technology from Harman International: JBL speakers to create the sound with the battery efficiency needed for the bike, and a Soundcraft mixer to allow professional multi-track recording of concerts. Anywhere.
To put this to the test, Harman have got in touch with Jonas after Veloconcerts caught their attention (even though his friends make fun of its less than 300 Instagram followers – so far) and their commissioning the “impossible concert” to be filmed around the hills of Mallorca.
Maybe the bike can also generate power to recharge it’s battery on the go? With his friends at “Vello” who’ve created an ingenious folding e-bike that has a self-charging hub in its wheel. Jonas sees great potential with the weight of the Veloconcerts bike in regenerative charging from braking.
Give it away now
The recharging technology of the Vello bike hasn’t been patented. And Jonas also has no plans to patent the Veloconcerts bike. For him it’s about sharing joy, and new ways for events to happen. And whoever does it best should win. He’s not doing it to make lots of money, he’s doing it to get music out to people and he can’t do that all himself, so the more bikes the better.
I had asked instinctively whether he’s afraid of ‘copycats’ because even I have the dogma of greed and ownership embedded in my brain. So his response was just perfect. And in the new story, cooperation and seeing the bigger picture is so necessary.
There’s more than ‘just’ spreading music to new places and audiences to the Veloconcerts idea, and why it is importantly bike-mounted. Jonas wants the project also to help demonstrate the (HUGE) potential of electric cargo bikes. He’s planning to take the bike for concerts in Ljubljana – and I mean literally take the bike, cycling it up and over the mountains and the 350km or so.
But also he sees the importance of bikes in creating community and breaking down barriers created by the metal boxes so many people shunt around in currently. With a bike, there’s no way of ignoring that what you see in front, or beside you is undeniably a person. I notice this when cycling in new and old places, the ability to tip your head to people, say hello to passers by and see and be seen. Frequent low-level social interactions are thought to be behind higher than average life expectancy.
Once upon a time Jonas was nervous. Nervous about showing he was having fun. Now he’s well over that, and it’s clear he’s having fun. Through doing something fun, and inspiring and possibly even transformative.
Each part of the work he’s doing to make Veloconcerts is fun to him. To fundraise, to ride the bike, play concerts, work on tweaks to the bike. He talks about that need to follow the heart, and follow a passion. He sees that success as a musician isn’t about playing Tokyo one day and Oslo the next, he shops locally why wouldn’t he produce and play locally.
He’s originally from rural Denmark and he wants to bring more of the openness and connection that exists in the countryside to the city. Veloconcerts helps by creating an intimate atmosphere that can help connect people, and the bike itself interacts with the surroundings. When the stage is open, the backdrop is wherever the bike is, and the performer is just raised a small amount and has no barrier between them and the audience, so connections are easy and go both ways.
No time to lose
Currently they’re working on a lighter model – the current set-up is 90kg all in all and they’re aiming at creating one that’s 40kg, so the bike(s) can be more easily used by a wider variety of people. I can’t wait to see, and probably more importantly, hear how it goes. Or more importantly WHERE it goes, or they go.
My instinct about VeloConcerts seems even more well founded after having found out more about the project. The focus on quality, performance and accessibility is what makes this a part of a new story. It’s created so well that it has the potential to appeal to anyone, and at the same time inviting them unconsciously to be part of something new.
Jonas is so clearly FOR things: Community, fun, creativity, joy, generosity. In our conversations we never once bemoaned the current problems, it was all looking forward, looking at something better, something new. Brilliant? Innovative? Disruptive? Veloconcerts I think is all three. Needless to say, I’m a fan and when it comes to these kind of wonderful ideas, there’s no time to lose.
Blame my phone’s microphone for the sound on the “No Time To Lose” video linked above, it sounded spine tingly amazing live!
I’ve made it many miles and days from Vienna, almost to Croatia so far, it’s just been a long time in the writing about this. Many more new story pieces on the way!