Of Rivers and Rhythms – Bonn Folk Club


If this bass had a headstock it wouldn’t say ‘Fender’

John Harrison quoted me as saying  that Bonn Folk Club was always a ‘liquorice allsorts’  show – which is to say that you never know quite what will come out; but it always turns out to be very tasty indeed.  All I can say after last Fridays meet is that we may well need a bigger box in future – they were packed into Haus Müllestumpe like the proverbial kippers in a can.

Maybe it was down to the press coverage in General Anzeiger after last months meeting, or maybe it was people who had battened down the hatches and stayed in for a week to avoid Karneval finally breathing fresh air outside their homes again.  Whatever the reason, I arrived shortly after 7.15pm to find there were already people seated the other side of the cash till and half an hour later they were in the corridor and well on their way to the cloakroom.  Maybe they were all curious to hear how the gauntlet of coming up with a ‘River Song’ would be run with?

Ladies and Gentlemen!!!

Ladies and Gentlemen!!!

John Harrison himself got the said gauntlet laid firmly down with a stirring ‘Old Man River’.  Aided by Steve Perry although neither man attempted to make the river as vocally deep as Mr Paul Robeson.  That was as far in the water as John ventured to wade before taking higher ground in the form of a trio of songs by the late and great John Martyn.  He was joined by guitar virtuoso Werner Krotz-Vogel, on Contra Bass of all things which slightly turned the set in the direction of Jazz, especially on the laid back ‘Solid Air’.  I also learned something new – that ‘May You Never’ isn’t by Ralph Mctell (although Ralph also does a fine version of it).  So, only fifteen minutes into the music and I’m learning already.

Christian Schuster & Tom Wilke

Christian Schuster & Tom Wilke

Christian Schuster and Tom Wilke were clearly nervous when they began and would have benefited at least on the first number, Passengers ‘Let Her Go’ with a microphone or two.  By song two though their nerves had settled down and their voices up to perform a very enjoyable ‘One’ based on Johnny Cash rather than U2 which is probably wise as Folk Club Bonn even with  it’s rapidly expanding audience isn’t yet stadium size.  (would John allow electricity if it was? Probably not!).  By Runrigs ‘Heart of Olden Glory’ they were certainly up and running with confidence with a pleasing mix vocally speaking as well as musically.

What I most remember about Renate Dohm and Winfried Bode’s appearance is how they started ‘Rivers of Babylon’ in a way that had me instantly thinking “oh no, not ‘Rivers of Babylon!’ but by the second verse had me clapping along and indeed, before the end,  singing along too – thankfully not alone as a large part of the audience was up for joining in as was proved numerous times later in the evening.


Gerd Schinkel & two ‘Kanuten’

Next name on the list to play turned out to be a no show and I well remember John shaking his head a little in disappointment as he scratched it through with his official MC pen.  How would we fill in the time?  John was foolishly assuming that Folk Club was within his control merely because he’s the MC!  Ah well, MC, we will see…

So Special guest Gerd Schinkel actually hit the stage earlier than expected, and brought with him a backing group of.. canoeists.  Yes, you read that right, people who sit in canoes.  They also play music very well fortunately.  Take a bow Wolfgang Kassel (guitar), Frank Tschinkel (mandolin), and  Gerd-Wolfgang Spiller (bass).  I don’t recall any songs about rivers but the band was in keeping with the evenings theme!   To quote one of Gerd’s own songs “Es besteht kein Grund zur Aufregung”.

It looked essentially harmless on paper: ‘Yorkshire Matthew and Hermann Josef ‘Fliege’ Wolf’ it said on my running order list. To slightly misquote Bill Shankly though, the band wasn’t playing on paper and turned out to be a highlight of the evening for me, and the 100+ audience I suspect too.  The band called itself ‘The Dodge City Blues Band’ although that seemed to be a snap-decision after John asked their name.  It featured ‘Yorkshire Matthew Robb’ playing an original 1930’s resonator guitar, accompanied by an excellent band that included Matthews wife Kris on cajon, a saxophonist and a one string broomhandle bass, and ‘Fliege’ of course though withouit his trademark wooden kazoo.  I new I would love it even before they started and I wasn’t wrong.  A raucous ‘You drink too much’ was ended by requests from the band for refreshments – and shouts from the audience that “You drink too much!!!” but the band were thankfully unstoppable and continued with a glorious blues ‘Please come back home’ and ‘Dead men have no dreams’ a moving song dedicated to the memory of Matthew’s father “Who actually isn’t even dead” ‘Fliege’ pointed out by the way.  The song ‘There’s a River’   fitted the evening and was, as all the numbers played, self penned by Yorkshire Matthew himself who not only had a hat that reminded me of Dylan but also a voice and a clutch of excellent songs that did so too.

Yorkshire Matthew in full swing

Yorkshire Matthew in full swing

I rather felt sorry for poor Janero Del Rosario.  He does such excellent work videoing the evenings events and now he was expected to follow a skiffle Blues ensemble that had brought the house down.   I should of course have realised that Janero can take good care of himself and he proved it by ploughing his feet through a thick pile of used raffle tickets to reach the ‘stage’ and deliver a short but fine set that saw him divide the entire audience into two for purposes of clapping along to a Filipino river song.  That should make a super video Janero!

A full house at Haus Müllestumpe

Renate Dohm & Winfried Bode with a full house listening in

A quick mention and thanks to three quick guest-spots (‘Annettes’ as seasoned Bonn Folk Clubbers call them) which kept up the quota of ‘River Songs’:   Benedict Steilmann played an excellent version of Dylan’s ‘Stayed in Mississipi a day too long’Bob Marabito sauntered on, sang an acapello version of ‘Dock of the Bay’ and sauntered off again to huge applause.  Short but sweet Bob! Stefan Weidt delivered a slightly jazzed up audience participation number with ‘Moon River’ (what is a Huckleberry friend I’ve always wondered? Did Danny or Andy Williams even know?)

Werner Krotz-Vogel happy to play Contra bass for a change

Werner Krotz-Vogel happy to play Contra bass for a change

Next up were Tom Hanusch, taking time out from his IT duties at Haus Müllestumpe, and Birger Killian aka Strand Café.  With two relaxing self-penned numbers: ‘I’ll keep you in my heart’ and ‘I had a dream’ joined later by Renate Dohm for ‘Only Dreaming’ and ‘Enough is Enough’.   It was somewhere around this time that the same John Harrison who had been worried about filling in a missing spot was now worried about finishing before midnight.  Gerd Schinkel still had a second set to do and it was after 10.30 already.  I’m told that John cancelled ‘Jock Stuart’ for the evening only to find that canny young fella got his song sung again anyway.  Some things are beyond the ken of mere mortals John, and Folk Club Bonn has become one of them.  I suspect it will have it’s own passport and driving licence soon.  You’ve already lost the parental power to send it to bed early.

Folk Club Bonn March 2014MORE PHOTOS HERE

And finally, Yorkshire Matthew (Robb) on YouTube…

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