The old song title ‘God is great, beer is good, people are crazy’ has become the motto of Folk Club Bonn, and it was indeed taken very seriously, as the 50th Club Meeting was rigorously planned. You would have to be crazy to walk round the streets of Grauerheindorf with pipes blazing the musical way and then fit 50 musical acts into one evening each singing one song. It took planning and meticulous judgement. It took guts. It took people who were… crazy…!
It also took a banner to march under of course. This was magnificently taken care of by Emily Roshto. I’m not sure if some of the residents on our way thought we were some sort of Volksverband’ looking for donations but if they did there was no money thrown at us – instead there were many smiles people at balconies and windows waving from houses along the way.
The aim of our mini march was actually to stop off at our two earlier venues – for a drink to wet the throats of the hardworking pipe players of course (and we couldn’t let them drink alone!).
There were lumps in throats passing through the portals of ‘Zum Schützenhaus’ where it all began some four years ago. A welcome smile from familiar faces was waiting at the bar though and similarly welcome drinks.
Bemused car drivers and similarly bemused residents watched and smiled as we made our way towards the second Folk Club venue ‘Rheindorfer Hof’ and a similarly welcome drink was enjoyed by all, together with a quick photo-shoot under the banner. So we were onto the last section of our mini march, pipes a piping, harmonicas a humming, and sea-shell maracas (thanks Paulo!) doing whatever they do best. Richard Limbert joined us for the final spurt around the corner and a spirited Bob Dylan sing-along. Round the corner and here we are – Haus Müllestumpe – where a good sized crowd had assembled to ensure seats. So, the ‘easy’ part was over…
50 singers on two stages, each with exactly 2 minutes and 30 seconds to play (plus 6 seconds reckoned in for applause) – Folk Club Bonn had it all rigorously planned to the last millisecond. Except that a couple of people had not turned up, and a couple more wanted to change their designated slots, and finally even explaining which stage was ‘A’ and which was ‘B’ became a Herculean task. It took much banging of gongs, and almost of heads, until things got off to a musical start with John Harrison and ‘Mercedes Benz’.
No, patient reader, I am not going to list, mention or even attempt to review each and every performer. For one, because they were all wonderful for just being there and running with the idea, and for two because my pen dried up after half an hour. Having left my tight little bit of ‘airspace’ to play my own song it was also quite plain that even Tom Thumb could not have wound his way through the packed room to get a photo (even if he could have toted a Nikon and two lenses with him – I suspect he would have needed a golf cart).
My own ‘spot’ was probably a microcosm of what every other performer went through as regards fear and confusion: It seemed simple enough. Not only was I supposed to be following John Harrison and before Barry Roshto and then Richard Limbert, three people who I could physically identify, I was first act after the break. But that was on paper… I leave in supposedly good time to catch a breath of fresh air and return to see said Richard Limbert – who was set to follow me – onstage. Had I missed the break? Had the break been cancelled to save time? How many people can you fit in a Mini Cooper? Steve assured me that the break was imminent – although I wasn’t sure if he meant the beer one or his own break-down.
When it thankfully came I placed my guitar on the stage in true German ‘towel on the holiday beach’ style and decided not to think about fresh air or WC visits for at least the next half an hour.
Whilst Barry was singing about people being crazy I took my place on stage A (or was it now stage B?) and saw for the first time a giant stop-clock counting down on the floor. Okay Bob Dylan,Mick Jagger and co; you’ve had crowds of thousands and played tv shows in front of millions, but have you any idea of the pressure that comes with playing a song while a big digital clock counts down from 2.5 minutes to nil?!
Special mentions go to Claudia and Werner (Meoneo) for their efforts in preparing ‘Mack the Knife’ with original paintings and a tune created and played on a wind-up organ. Liveliest audience reaction award goes to Hans Jörg Schall and ‘Proud Mary’, Biggest surprise award to Barry for playing a stunning version of’ ‘Round Midnight’ on a miniplastic keyboard flute with son David on piano.
I take off my metaphorical hat though to each and everyone who contributed to the evenings magic – and indeed to everyone who has ever played, clapped or even just listened patiently to music at Bonn Folk Club. Without you all there would be no Folk Club in either presence or spirit.
Now it’s time to place my ‘Beach Towel’ down on the stage for Folk Club Nr 100. Will there be one? Will it be at Haus Müllestumpe? How many ‘former’ clubhouses will the procession stop at? The only tings we can truly be sure of are that ‘God is great, beer is good, and people are indeed (thankfully) crazy.