‘Trains, boats, planes & Stuff’. That was the theme for Folk Club #56 How many would opt for the ‘Stuff’ choice I wondered. Would anyone go for the triple whammy and sing that old classic “Trains & boats & planes”? Maybe someone would find a song about trams? The wonderful thing about Folk Club meetings at Haus Mullestümpe is that anything could and probably will happen…
The professionalism has stepped up since the last Club that I missed I am ashamed to say. Mario has added a rather natty wooden box surround to his mixing desk and mike stand so that Janero’s videos will have a minimum of clink from glasses and ‘slurp’ from coffee machines to fight against. There even seems to be a bit more room available at 7pm than normal. Partly because even John hasn’t arrived just yet.
By 7.05 pm John Harrison has arrived and the extra bits of breathing space have been greedily gobbled up by seats raided from the next room (there seems to be some sort of event happening in the central room at Haus Mullestümpe – I hope it’s a stand-up buffet. By 7.30 pm it will have to be as all seats are sat upon and pointed towards John who at that precise moment is holding a small potted daffodil in his hand. Fans of William Wordsworth will guess why – a better introduction to the promised arrival of Spring has never been written, and even if there is no mention of any form of transport outside of wandering lonely as a cloud) it’s a stylish start to the evening. We are on theme for John’s final contribution this evening – David Wiffen’s ‘Driving Wheel’ though and it’s beautiful driven along by Paulo’s harp backing.
Paulo remains onstage but puts his harp back into his pocket and replaces it with a guitar (no, not from his pocket!) to be joined by a smiling Svenja on violin for Tom Waite’s ‘Shiver me Timbers’.
So, only early days and already great music has come our way. When the familiar face of Werner Krotz-Vogel steps forward with his guitar we know there will be some good finger picked melodies coming our way – but we were wrong, ‘good’ would be an insult. Werner introduces Thomas Mannerjahn and his guitar. The two of them introduce a song very in theme keeping ‘Take the A-Train’. Am I hearing this right? Two guitars aiming to bring off a jazz classic? Yes I was hearing right, and yes, they DID bring it off in amazing style. Just to prove it was no lucky fluke they even added a couple more intricate jazz pieces which were equally astounding. Two men and one sound – obviously a musical marriage made in heaven for us all hopefully to enjoy in future(no falling out please gentleman!)
It was a long evening of great music so I will have to skip a bit. Apologies therefore to Stephan, to Ulriche,to Tom Meier who all served to remind me what a wealth of natural musical talent there is gracing our ‘stage’ at the Folk Club these days. Stephan Weidt with his own excellent songs and Tom particularly with a hand picked ‘Freight Train’ were what Folk Clubs at their roots are all about. Songwriting and keeping the roots alive. Daniel Bongart too. Amazing how a nervous voice on the opening song (Elton’s ‘Daniel’) becomes a strong and confident voice to fill the hall only two songs (his own ‘Old Man’ and Mic Christopher’s ‘Heyday’) later. Shea also was what Folk Clubs are about – He’s been playing sessions at The Fiddlers in Endenich but on hearing from Steve that there was an appreciative audience down the road. Yorkshire Matthew and ‘Fliege’ also made a brief but welcome appearance.
Amazing too how Peter Philips can sit down on the stage chair in so an unassuming manner, unfold the lyrics to songs he had planned to be the accompanying guitarist for, and then with a smile have everyone singing along merrily to Harry Belafonte’s ‘Jamaican Farewell’ as if they’d lived there all their collective lives and were leaving tomorrow. The stuff of which Bonn Folk Club is legendary – expect only the unexpected. He was straight down for an enjoyable floorspot.
And so to the evening’s very special guest. I had time before Friday evening to click on Paul O’Brien’s website. For a Canadian Singer/Songwriter it seemed oddly European – with even a German translation button. It led me to expect some great music but also gave me some clues to the roots of that music. An Irishman who spent some twenty years of his life playing in English Clubs and at English Festivals until burn-out led to moving lock, stock and barrel to Canada and a teaching job. The teaching only lasted as long as it took Paul to feel the inspiration of his new home seep into his soul. I’m reminded of Eric Bogle and his move from Scotland to Australia when I hear some of Paul’s music. Inspiration from traditions and nature that it takes someone from a completely different world to really appreciate and be able to communicate to the people from the ‘old’ world they once inhabited.
All of this is wonderfully evident in the Celtic underpinning and the many references to Nature in Paul’s songs this evening such as ‘Madrona’. His eyes light up as he tells us of the Madrona tree that legend has it saved the people from a terrible flood and in return was forever to be saved from destruction _ “You will never burn for us!” as the chorus goes that was sung by everyone whom Paul had mesmerized with his enthusiasm and storytelling -and that was every single person in the room such was Paul’s charisma.
Paul O’Brien is not just a super singer and guitarist, he is also a super storyteller, and the stories tell us as much about him as about the songs themselves. ‘American Car’ came from his being on the road so much that his son wished he would buy one of those huge cadillacs that could bring his daddy home in seconds from all over the planet.
‘I Still haven’t found what I’m looking for’ is a great song and a classic from U2 for sure. But is it the right thing to sing to your wife on your Wedding Day? Paul thought not- but only after he’d done it. It was certainly the right number this evening though as a Bodhran tune. That’s an Irish drum for the uninitiated and maybe an instrumental version would have gone under the radar at Paul’s Wedding? At any rate, such ‘disasters’ are grist for the singer-songwriters mill.
Even after just his first set I had no second thoughts about putting some money down for a CD. People, if you hear some excellent musician at the Folk Club who has a cardboard box with CD’s in (as is frequently the case) then please remember that the show you enjoy every month is free and the chances of getting served more than twice during a busy show is slim, so maybe put some of the money you’re saving down on a great CD that you won’t find next week at ‘Mr Music’.
It was 11.15 pm when I put my coat on and headed for the tram stop. That’s an hour after official shows end (see what I mean about value for money at a free concert?). Even then the show wasn’t over. Through the windows I could see the warm glows of lights and of faces inside Haus Mullestümpe as another chorus of ‘Jock Stuart’ filled what was left of the air inside and I was thinking that maybe Bonn Folk Club is free because you can’t put a price on what it offers.