May is traditionally an important time in the Folk Calendar. In England Maypoles are danced around, in Germany they are hung high from the sides of houses. This makes it rather difficult for Folkdancers to do their thing. Maybe that’s why there were no Maypoles in the Gaststätte zum Schützenhaus on Friday. I must admit though I can’t quite imagine Barry and John hopping around with bells on their trousers. Best that they stick to what they do best – and that of course is, play music and entertain.
I missed last months Club, and as usual, everything has changed in the meantime. The tables have been moved around into two long rows and the walls have been repainted. The red colour oddly gives the feeling that they have also been rebuilt and someone got the scale wrong. Everything looks smaller. Before I had the chance to measure my footfalls from entrance to back wall though John had quietly summoned everyone to attention with a customary ‘Ladies & Gentlemen’ (Which if you live within two miles of the Gaststätte you will probably have noticed as the time when your window frames shook). John Harrison had done his historical homework and found a suitable lyric for the occasion – Dave Webbers charming ‘Hail the first of May’‘We shall sing and dance the day And follow the Hobby Horse That brings the May’
It’s also a busy time for birds of course as they build nests and families. Not without it’s dangers, as John recallls in his sad pion to bird mortality ‘Zeppelina’. Before we all took our guns in search of thieving Magpies, John took his Dobro and bottleneck for ‘Albert Mcshah’ which were also put to good effect on Son Houses classic ‘Walking Blues’. I might add that anyone who, like me, loves that gritty steel bottleneck sound, should head down to the Harmonie in November for the brilliant Eric Sardinas.
John’s rendition of Danny Kreschmar’s ‘Machine Gun Kelly’ was certainly not a jolly May song, it’s subject being one of Alcatraz’ most notorious inmates. No guns were fired though and everyone survived to hear Barry calm things down with his trusty piano. Although from the front it looked like he was actually getting notes out of a white woollen blanket (this warming up the piano thing all seems a bit like Joe Bonamassa and his ‘guitar for every song predilection’ (‘God is great, beer is good, musicians are crazy?’) . As always, Mr Roshto was good for a surprise, and singing a song written by Henry VIII in a high falsetto without a safety net ranks as something he will have some trouble topping. We were all waiting for his pitch to falter – but it must be said, splendid stuff! Splendid contribution also by wife Christiane on Violin.
Now Thomas Steffens had me in a quandry last meet. I couldn’t place his voice but it reminded me of someone. In the event I spent his set wracking (wrecking?) my brain for exactly who. Thomas’ theme for the evening was the Railway so his opener was the 1960’s song ‘500 Miles- The Railroaders Lament’ The second was an older ballad entitled ‘900 Miles’ so I’d gone 1400 miles in total when the name ‘Ewan MacColl’ came to me. He didn’t sing any MacColl though but instead chose an all time favourite of mine – Eric Bogles ‘The Band Played Waltzing Matilda’ (see video below) a song guaranteed to bring a lump to the throat. If any song could stop wars this would be it. Sadly no song, however mighty, can. A bit of ‘High Noon’ in the shape of ‘Do not forsake me oh my Darling’ and a return to the railway theme with ‘Freight Train’ brought a very entertaining set to an end. Maybe a bit of Ewan MacColl next time? ‘My Old Man’ would be great. I have a feeling ‘Bogles ‘No Mans Land’ would sound great from Thomas Steffen too. Certainy someone I enjoy hearing very much.
Meoneo were next up. That’s Claudia Huismann and Werner Krotz-Vogel to be exact. A duo that have played here several times and therefore regulars will have had the chance to see them bloom from the slightly nervous early appearances to a fully fledged and confident powerhouse of an act. Claudia’s outgoing stage personality and strong voice being perfectly counterpointed by Werner’s delicate flamenco style guitar backing (it’s easy to get so wrapped up listening to Claudias voice that you forget the quality of the backing)’I’m Calling You’ was great, but highlight had to be the finger-clicking syncopation of ‘Don’t Wait Too Long’. Jazz at a Folk Club? Is that allowed? Well, very thankfully yes it is!
Rheinfolk Gave us a selection of German language songs for May but a few surprises along the way too. ‘Maypole Song’ was a logical title for this evenings Folk Club but it’s origins are a bit more unexpected. It was written and used in 1973’s offbeat thriller film ‘The Wicker Man’. A well deserved encore had us all tapping toes and glowing with a feeling of gentle anarchy as the band played Neil Young’s ‘Rocking in the Free World’.
In the spirit of this Folk Club there was a spontaneous sing/play along. Thomas Steffen sat facing the others onstage like a conductor with a guitar for a baton and those ‘onstage’ played whatever instrument came to hand – and when none came, they used their hands themselves to clap. Smiles everywhere, none more so than on the face of Mr Harrison – which said I’m pretty sure “Now this is what Folk Clubs are all about!”
On that note I’m sure it was with a somewhat heavy heart that he brought down the curtain on the evenings music with the now traditional finisher ‘Jock Stewart’. Have no fear though, FolkClub will be back again next month. Same time, same place. Delving deep into the roots of music, causing listeners to scurry about on google in search of new found musical gems and there will also be saxophones. But no Maypoles or Morrismen unless they turn up on the night wanting to play. Ever seen a Maypole sing? No, but I once saw a horsefly…
As I write this it’s 10pm and I can hear The Hooters singing ‘500 Miles’ several miles away live on the Rheinaue. Why do I feel a bit peeved at a Folk Club having to put away its acoustic guitars sans microphones at 10pm?