It was a case of old (as in familiar!) faces in new places, as Bonn Folk Club Evening number 27 kicked off at Rheindorfer Hof. It proved an excellent venue for live Folk too – if only the walls were further part so we could get more seats in.
Easy enough to find. Turn left instead of right after the bus stop at Grauerheindorf and there it is – Rheindorfer Hof. As I’m taking a picture of the building I can even hear the clattering of horses hooves coming up the road. A rustic venue for sure, perfect for a bit of rustic Folk music. The clattering gets louder and around the bend comes – not a shetland pony, but John Harrison in his best clogs. As we enter the building, I’m wondering if loud shoes are legal in such a sleepy rural corner of Bonn. I’m also hoping we’re not the only ones here for the Folk evening, but it’s soon clear that all the reminders have paid off and familiar faces greet us inside the very appealing lounge of the Pub Restaurant. So many of them in fact, that I have to grab one of the few remaining seats whilst it’s still ‘bottomless’.
The room being smaller than that at our regular ‘Müllestumpe’ venue makes for a formidably thunderous ‘LADIES AND GENTLEMEN!’ from MC John, and when the last of the dust has re-alighted from the vibration of our welcome, Mr Harrison has kick-started the evenings entertainment with an A capella ‘Oh What a Beautiful Morning’. The time of day may have been wrong, but he certainly got the weather right. Jimmy Cox’s ‘Nobody Knows You’ is always a treat for Blues lovers like myself, and the follow up own composition ‘Whistlin’ Walvis’ played on John’s Dobro was similarly right up my Blues side of the street. As always there was also time for a short history lesson in John’s set, this time via ‘The Chemical Workers Song’. Written by a Middlesborough man, Ron Angel, in 1964. The song tells of the working conditions in Industry prior to the Great War. To quote the famous Labour Politician Keir Hardie:
“Workers rapidly lost the cartilage in their nose working with these noxious chemicals, but also suffered from ‘chrome holes’ being burnt in their body, and respiratory diseases. Moreover, they worked a twelve-hour day, seven-day week – with no time off for meals, and in foul conditions. (Damer, Glasgow 62f)“
John’s final song of the evening Big Bills ‘All By Myself’ was, he said with tongue suitably in cheek, a companion piece to the Beatles ‘Little Help From My Friends’ It’s jaunty tune was certainly a welcome respite from the aforementioned tale of standing ‘knee deep in cyanide’ of Ron Angel’s song.
Even more uplifting was Richard Limbert. His confidence seems to grow with every appearance, along with his repertoire. – another new song that didn’t even have a proper name yet was unveiled so I christened it ‘Christopher Columbus’. A man using old maps to discover new territory. Might also be a good description of Richard himself. Richard’s own material is obviously grounded in 60’s/70’s Folk styles but he brings a 21st Century feel to them, as on ‘Beautiful Sin’ and ‘The Spark that sets fire’ this evening. He’s not your ‘Bert Jansch/Ralph Mctell sit on a stool all evening and sing type either – audience participation is part of Richard’s set these days as his mini walkabout with a tambourine on ‘The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down’ showed.
I’ve long suspected that Barry Roshto must be a Blondie fan. They both seemingly share a passion for telephone songs. Remember Debbie Harry with ‘Hanging on the Telephone’, or ‘Call Me’? Not having the blonde hair of the delectable Miss Harry (probably not the long shapely legs either!) I wasn’t sure of this as a folk club singalong song when I heard it was on his set-list. He certainly had everyone shouting back “Call Me!” at every given opportunity in the songthough. A surprise hit as an audience participation number, and a cheerful way to round up a set that included Barry’s own take on ageing – a song called ‘When I’m 54’ that owed a lot to a band from Liverpool and it’s title to Barry’s Birthday. I’m already looking forward to hearing your rendition of their version in ten years time Mr Roshto. I also have a date with my computer tracking down music from Patty Larkin whose ‘Booth of Glass’ was my favourite song of the whole evening and one of Barry’s best moments ever behind the piano thus far at the Club – and yes, he did it again – it is all about a phone call.
After another too short but enjoyable set by Steve Perry who’s ‘Genuine Jesus’ sketch always has me and everyone else in stitches it was time for the return of FernerLiefen. Uli Kohler, together with Anke and Jörg Bohnsack played with gusto and even got oomph out of playing two kazoos. There was so much to pack into the evening that a young lady named Arletta only got one slot to sing in but it was an interesting one all the same. The tune she played was ‘Das Loch in der Banana’ which I had never heard before but is possibly the most played piece of guitar music in Germany since it was used between shows on NDR television throughout the 1980’s. Arletta told me that it only got it’s title ‘The hole in the Banana’ from writer Klaus Weiland because people kept asking what it was called and prior to the NDR transmissions it wasn’t actually called anything. I can imagine people getting fed up with hearing it a dozen times a day, but once in an evening seemed too short. Well done Arletta.
Special guests The Four Fiddlers needed no introduction. Steffi Hölzle and Daniel Marsch both did a wonderful set at the original Folk Club as ‘Tangoyim’ and were also recent Guests at ‘GoVinum’. Joined by fellow fiddlers Ariane Böker and Ecki Schwandtke they are a veritable tour-de-force of musical styles as their set revealed. Swedish Ganglats, Irish Jigs, theirs is a set-list that reads like a geography lesson. ‘The Maramures Suite’ from Rumania, ‘D’Simmasmoad’ from Bavaria, ‘Atholl Highlanders’ Jigs from Scotland…
Entertaining as Tangoyim are with their Kletzmer music, The Four Fiddlers have a far wider appeal due not to just the geographical reach of their material but also to the untapped worldwide resources of classic melodies that are there to be discovered. The Swedish ‘Gardeby Laten’ is a case in point. It’s a wonderful melody that somehow evokes the Great Plains of the Wild West – something Glenn Ford would have used (and maybe did) as a backdrop to John Wayne toiling up ‘Red River’ with his cattle. Daniel spoke of plans for a Four Fiddles CD and if this evenings taster of what is possible is anything to go by it will be getting a place on my CD player for sure.
So there you have it. Folk Club meet number one at the Rheindorfer Hof. It was an excellent venue acoustically, having the bar in another room was a godsend from distracting clinks, clanks and espresso machine gurgles, an appealing location in every way but ultimately too small for Folk Club meets – latecomers found themselves sitting outside and looking through the open patio door. Next month will be ‘business as usual’ at Haus Müllestumpe, more seats but come early to be sure of getting one!
You can also catch ‘The Four Fiddlers’ in action at Cafe Startklar in Düsseldorf (15 June) and Kulturhof Emst in Hagen-Emst (24 August)