Despite the glorious sunshine and attractions elsewhere like the Rhine in Flammen Concerts first night, every seat to sit on was sat upon. Not so surprisingly on an evening that offered three guests capable of headlining the evening. So where does my ominous headline over the future of Bonn Folk Club come from on such a pleasant Mayday evening?
Certainly there was a lot to be happy about this first Friday in May 2016. The sun was shining through the windows as John Harrison kicked off events. A few hours earlier John had kicked off another happy event by being witness at Bonn registry office for the Wedding of fellow FCB organizer Steve to Regine. With typical Folk Club allegiance both were on hand at Haus Mullestümpe, Steve literally wearing his happy heart on his sleeve to sing ‘All I have to do is dream’ to his new Wife. If he had proposed to me after singing with such emotion I would certainly have said ‘yes!’.
But I’ve leaped forward a bit and at Bonn Folk Club a lot can happen in a second so lets get back to John’s initial ‘Ladies & Gentlemen!’ and take it as they say from the top…
The theme this evening was threefold: Plants, Animals and May. A good chance for everyone to find something then and for John Harrison the latter has obviously always been an inspiration. It’s a time of year that inspires Mr Harrison to put on his poetry head and there were welcome returns for his feathery poems – ‘zeppelina’ and indeed the welcome return of another welcome return – the Swifts that have now brightened up our skies to announce warmer days. Dave Weber’s poem ‘Hail, Hail the first of May’ also made a welcome Folk Club return, as did Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee’s ‘Strangers Blues’ that had nothing to do with tonight’s themes but it was a Blues and involved a super harmonica solo from Paulo that got well deserved applause so I don’t care!
Dieter Faring continued the poetry trend set by John earlier with his own inimitable brand of rhythmic humour. Always a pleasure as much to see the enthusiasm with which he delivers his poetry as the words themselves with their light hearted and light handed wit.
Dennis Ledermann as part of the duo ‘Momo’ needs no introduction these days since his success already in the first round of the regional musical talent contest ‘Toys 2Masters’. “Ich träume, weck mich nicht auf” was an ideal lyric for a dreamy Summer evening Dreaming too of the next ‘Toys 2Masters’ round too maybe? Ed Sheeran has made acoustic pop/folk popular again so who knows? Certainly Dennis seems to bring his own mini-fan club with him these days and it is growing by the appearance I would wager.
You may not have realised, but it was also International Tuba Day. ‘Ge We’ Spiller made sure we were all not just informed about the day but also about the instrument itself – even taking bits of it off to explain things that only a tuba expert would know or dare to ask. Mary Krah, Justus Gatz and Achim Friker accompanied Ge We on such curious musical excursions as ‘Stand by Me’ and ‘Baby Elephant Walk’. as long as the likes of Ge We are around there will clearly never need to be a ‘Save the Tuba’ Day. Not sure I will add one to my Christmas list yet though (my neighbours will be relieved).
Lots written then and only just at the first special guest slot. With hardly time to put his foot on the break in the car park Richard de Bastion still looked as cool as the proverbial cucumber when he sat down to play his Guild. There are some lucky people who exude calm and Richard is one. He even had the prerequisite songs for the evening, kicking off with ‘Cuckoo do’, and following flawlessly in theme with ‘Basket of Flowers’ and ‘Pussycat Paws’ – the latter as Richard pointed out being something of a homage to Facebook’s most famous photographic subject, cats. You can’t go wrong mentioning cats, and Richard didn’t.
Barely a pause to catch breath (or should that be ‘paws?’) and our second special guest was onstage. Tom Copson from Cambridge is 31 but has the appearance and enthusiasm of a teenager. It’s an enthusiasm that saw him break from the folk group Eske a few years back just to go off busking around England and Europe. Indeed his songs this evening include one inspired by a homeless man. “I love such people” smiled Tom, “because they love nature and they love to drink. like me really!”
Don’t think we had a session along the ‘Streets of London’ line though. Tom has a weapon to truly take you by surprise – a voice that one minute soars and the next plummets as quickly as one of those Swifts John Harrison was describing. Three keys often in the same line. Always though with an emotion that keeps the listener hanging on to every changing note. An interesting song about ‘stalking’ an ex-girlfriend though – well at least, ‘turning up’ accidentally in places she frequented. There’s a bit of the Ed Sheeran biographical element in Tom’s best songs for certain and his slightly uncomfortable way of playing gives the music an edge and is a direct contrast to Richard de Bastion’s instant ease. Both men can make a joke and a smile seem like the most natural things in the world though – and you can’t help liking them for it.
Erhard Schwartz was on hand for Tuba Day take two and delivered a beautiful version of Roger Kellaway’s ‘The Morning Song’ with piano accompaniment (I didn’t get the ladies name, but the duo were super to hear believe me). The tuba looked smaller, lighter and had a lighter tone than Ge We’s. Obviously an instrument to delve more deeply into and not to be taken lightly. That old Danny Kaye song from my childhood ‘Tubby the Tuba’ said it all “You can indeed be a swan, Tubby!”
Lothar Prünte is someone who continually surprises and delights with his sets. A clear fan of Gerry Rafferty his vocals make a pretty good interpretation of the underestimated songwriter too. Tonight’s Rafferty number was ‘As wise as a serpent’. He will be remembered this evening though very much for taking on (and winning) with a super inspired version of Elton’s ‘Crocodile Rock’ that had everybody ‘La, la la la la la’ing in high falsetto. You may even have heard us on the other Rhine side. Sorry about that – but it was great fun.
Irishman Laurence O’Toole ‘s set was a refreshing homage to Nature that began with the gentle ‘Song of the Tree Spirits’. O’toole writes and plays with wonderfully dynamics within each song – I have to say I was envious of his Martin acoustic and it’s ability to translate with ease from the lightest finger pick to the heaviest strum. For my money a third special guest of the evening and hopefully a future visit will allow more than the three songs this evening.
Back then to the second sets of our two advertised Guests. Much as I’d enjoyed Richard de Bastion‘s first acoustic set I enjoyed the second one more. Richard had requested permission to play a small electric piano – the ‘E’ word was of course instantly nullified by John Harrison. NO electricity, PERIOD!
In the event the old Folk Club upright piano got it’s first star spot in quite a while – and boy did it shine. Richard’s parting number ‘Thank You’ was he said aimed at us for listening, but could equally have been aimed from us to him for playing such a magic set.
Chatting to Richard in the car on the way home gave me an inkling that he was a man with a tale or two to tell and a quick Wikipedia look up revealed he indeed started in illustrious company in the 1960’s in a group that included the late, great John Bonham. He’s been involved in the music at various times of musicians as diverse as Moody Blueser Justin Hayward, German star Peter Maffay and even notorious rapper Sido. Oh, and he also has a programme for teaching English through music. He came to Germany temporarily and ended up liking it so much he stayed – thankfully, because we get to hear him from time to time In Bonn. A treat indeed.
The last treat of the day musically came from Tom Copson. with a second powerful set of swooping sounds and emotions. The scratched and worn varnished surface of Copson’s guitar attests to the emotion he puts on the musical line and his songs of equally scratched and worn emotions deserve a bigger audience and a new disc (Tom has a four track CD with him that just leaves you wanting to hear more). Is there an audience for his heart on a sleeve style of Folk? Currently it’s being catered for by an impish man with red hair and a friendship with Elton John. Tom Copson is certainly someone to check out if you like Mr Sheeran. If only there was more material to actually check out…
So many guest stars led to John Harrison seriously asking if anyone really wanted to hear Jock Stuart at such a late hour (11 pm). Silly question of course. No one was prepared though when he added that this might well be the last time that esteemed Scotsman would be heard at Haus Müllestumpe. it seems the restaurant wants the option to hold more lucrative events on the first Friday of each month which would basically mean telling the likes of ‘outside’ guests Like Tom and Richard that come a month before the show there might not be one.
Not a very professional way to treat professional musicians and naturally not one that John Harrison is prepared to accept. There seemed to me to be a steady flow (literally) of waiters with beer glasses all evening but seemingly the flow needs to be a veritable sea for the venue. Shame that a location setting so much store on treating people with respect seems to respect money more. Any future venue suggestions please let me know for onward transmission – Jock Stuart is in need of a new local and Bonn is in danger of losing a valuable testing ground for young acoustic musicians to learn their trade, not to mention an event put on by the people, for the people that has, in 69 meetings, become a second home once a month for an ever growing audience for whom music is the best medicine.