Hungarian band rocks goodbye to post-communist era

Wed Aug 11, 2010 11:56am EDT
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By Marton Dunai

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - When communism ended in Hungary, a small political party called the Alliance of Young Democrats (Fidesz) celebrated with two concerts: one to say so long to the old era, the other to welcome the new.

Headlining both events was a little-known alternative rock trio called Kispal and the Badger. Its quirky, imaginative lyrics and fresh, bare-bones music would soon propel the band to immense heights of success.

Twenty years on, Hungary has changed beyond recognition. Communists are gone, and the considerably older Young Democrats are in government. The cultural shift since 1990 has been nothing short of seismic.

Earlier this year, Kispal and the Badger took stock of the past two decades - and decided to call it quits. To thousands of their fans, that was the end of the post-communist era.

"They were the most important Hungarian band of the last 25 years," said Karoly Gerendai, chief of Budapest's giant Sziget (Island) Festival, which dedicated its entire first day on Monday to a farewell concert by Kispal.

Since the early 1990s, Sziget has expanded from its roots as a student gathering to a massive weeklong event that drew almost 400,000 visitors in each of the past two years.

"(Kispal) are the defining act for a generation," Gerendai said. "Alone among all bands, they have been a headline act at Sziget in every year since 1994."

The last show drew tens of thousands of people of all age groups. Teenage festival dwellers mingled with rockers of old and families who came to witness Kispal one last time.   Continued...

<p>Hungarian rock band Kispal and the Badger performs at the main stage of the Sziget festival during their farewell concert in Budapest August 9, 2010. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo</p>