I would be lying if I said I found 2016 a great year for music in Bonn. Down at the Kunstrasen: Jan Delay, Sido, Mark Forster… not my things at all. Chris DeBurgh without a band but with a downfall of rain. There were bright spots of sunshine musically though in the season. Wolfgang Niedecken was seasoned professional enough to still play a long concert despite sound restrictions – rounding off both BAP’s Anniversary Tour show and the Kunstrasen season 2016 with a thoughtful acoustic set rather than a Rocking Big Bang. Oddly enough my favourite show of the year was a Kunstrasen one with a rocking big bang but played out in the unlikely location of the Bruckenforum. Frank Turner and his Sleeping Souls had the hunger, the energy and the commercial tunes to remind me of what live rock music is all about at it’s best.
Down by the ‘duckpond’ – the tiny Kunstgarten stage – it was great to see Bonn Folk Club MC John Harrison reminding us of the magic that is pure and simple acoustic Blues. Aided by blues harp virtuoso Paulo. The organization at the Kunstgarten drives me to despair at times though – why do they seem to have so few people serving drinks at the bar? What’s with this ‘Pfand’ system that gives you a plastic disc when you already have a glass that you can return? Why does ordering anything other than a beer inevitably lead to long delays and chaos? Why were live shows abandoned at the merest hint of wind or rain so that I turned up twice to find the music was cancelled?
Similarly, it was enjoyable but the Stadtgarten didn’t quite catch me like it did in 2015. The beautiful Alten Zoll location is still worth a visit though and I did catch great sets by, amongst others, Steal a Taxi and Baum’s Bluesbenders. It’s certainly a venue that radiates all that’s good about live music in Bonn on a sunny Summer day.
I can’t comment too much on the Jazz at the Rheinaue Biergarten this year since I didn’t get down there often– when I did attend it was to catch the always excellent Sunny Skies. To have a chance of sitting down you need to arrive a day in advance (alright, a bit of an exaggeration, but by 9pm I could barely see Babsi behind the thick wall of dancers at the Sunny Skies show. It was a reminder though of how popular the band still are and rightly so. I was sorry to find an appearance by former Skies singer Alex Krienke’s band AJK cancelled but pleased to discover a new band being unveiled led by current singers Babsi and Patrick – Radio Shokk. Looking forward to hopefully hearing them in 2017.
Two events that tested out my feet as well as my camera were This year’s Rockaue and Toys 2Masters. The Main Rockaue stage didn’t really attract me with it’s offerings and tellingly it wasn’t the candy box colours and lights of Culcha Candela that left an impression but the barebones Brit Kelvin Jones with a simple but mesmerisingly effective acoustic set. The Ledermann brothers were spotted front of stage for that one and were to feature heavily in my second photographic ‘endurance test’ but more on that later. As usual the local stage was really the most interesting. Foggy Mountain Rockers rocked (so no surprise there!) with an enthudsiasm matched only by some of their own fans down the front. There was a cool looking guy on the bill too dressed like Hendrix. Don’t remember the music much but I do remember the hat. Ju & Me were entertaining.
You certainly shouldn’t complain about a festival without mud so all in all an enjoyable day out – my feet still hurt from it though, how about a moving staircase or bus between stages for us older people (okay, there weren’t toomany of us over 25, make that a golf cart rental between stages)
There were a couple of excellent extra events to remember in the shape of Marion & Sobo’s CD Release party at Fabrik 45 in June, and the grand opening of the new Rock & Pop Zentrum in Bad Godesberg, the latter of which promises to make Bonn a nursery for up and coming young talent, The likes of which are already evident in the form of Toys 2Masters which was the second test of the year for feet and camera.
My visits to KlangStation, appropriately near the Bad Godesberg railway station have been pretty sporadic (I think previous to this year I saw a badly advertised Aynsley Lister play to a dozen people there some years back). My reason for returning was the decision to cover the Toys competition on 3songsbonn for the first time. Shrugging off the feeling a dinosaur would have walking into MacDonald’s I caught an early round with Folk Club Heroes Bromo. Assuming they would be out first round – I mean, two guys with acoustic guitars in front of teenage rockers? The brothers Ledermann did, as history recalls, go all the way to fourth place in the final… and I went with them with a short break when I was refused admittance to the semi-final at Harmonie for being in possession of a cheese sandwich (sorry, no food allowed in). The calm looking guy wielding the TV camera was older than me I’m fairly sure and I really preferred the less hurried video of the evening’s entertainment to the crazy “two seconds… cut to camera two and a shot up the bassists nostrils … two seconds and a close up between the ears of the drummer and… approach of the hyperactive shoulder camera wielding Rockpalast team. What a wonderful atmosphere too – of young people having a great time enjoying music and enjoying life. Big smiles both on and off stage.
My second home ,The Harmonie, mainly offered up old friends: Royal Southern Brotherhood, Mike Zito, Layla Zoe, Band of Friends, Julian Sas. All dependable to deliver a solid and sincere show. Dependable too was the talent on offer at Blues Caravan and Ina Forsman’s was a name I made a note of to watch and listen too in future. A welcome new face to watch too was that of Ryan McGarvey and a familiar face, but playing with his own band, Devon Allman. Local heroes Blumchenknicker celebrated their 5th Anniversary in fine barefoot style, the Crossroads Festival was great too I’m told but work commitments meant I sadly missed it all this year.
I did find time for a few forays into nearby Cologne. Jack Savoretti was wonderful with just the lightest of backing at MTC. Much better to my mind than on his heavily produced latest full-band disc. Still, I plan to check him out again at the Gloria theatre in February. Warren Haynes was as brilliant at Kantine as I had expected (and I expected a lot!) Almost as brilliant as Robert Cray was disappointing in what I thought was a lack-lustre show at Tanzbrunnen. I preferred his concert at the Meccano in Portsmouth around 30 years ago when he was a lot more active – but then so was I.
So there we are. Possibly not the most interesting of years from my musical perspective. Congratulations go out to Bonn Folk Club for holding it’s 75th meeting this year – pretty amazing stuff for a monthly get together round the pub – which makes it sound easy, but having seen many an anxious email, nervous re-scribbling of playing order notes or the occasional change of venue I know for a fact it isn’t. Take a bow John, Steve, Barry and Detlef.
How will 2017 fare in comparison? More open air shows than before are now promised/allowed. Zucchero, Brings and Aimi MacDonald will be at Kunstrasen with a couple more acts still to be announced. How will Millenia fare in their first year as Toys winners? Will Germany’s Eurovision Song Contest entry be a young lady with a super voice from Bonn? Lacking a crystal ball I can only say after the many huge musical losses of this year ‘Roll on 2017, you can only be better…!’
I know I didn’t get to see a fraction of the events in the City so let me know what YOUR personal highlights were for music in Bonn via the comments below….