The light and darkside of Bonn Folk Club

Folk Club 96 at Dotty’s Sportsbar.  There is a large gap between tables and where the performers will stand.  Tables are added, then more chairs, and more chairs, and more chairs…  Pretty soon there are no more chairs and people sit on the floor – shades of those black and white ‘Folk Music Television specials of the early 60’s with listeners camped out at the feet of players.  I would reckon that the number of listeners equalled at least the number of Folk Clubs(96).  Maybe it’s the double guest star slot of Canadian David Blair and always popular red-headed duo Brother Movement?  Even the number of dogs in the room seems to be growing.  What’s happening Mr Harrison?  I may have to do the German thing and drape a bath towel over a chair at Dott’s before going to work on the first Friday of the month.

The people (and poochies) have settled down by the time John calls out his ‘Ladies &  Gentlemen!’ at 7pm sharp (there’s a lot to get through).  This evening’s theme is Light and Dark.  John Harrison has the perfect number to get things going in Bill Broonzy’s ‘Nightwatchman Blues’.  It’s a great Blues to start the evening, it fits the theme, and it gives John a chance to do some advertising for his ‘night job’ of 16th Century Watchman for Bonn Tourism.  The number of participants is skyrocketing for that too – John tells me of a recent ‘Walk’ around the City Centre with 80 excited listeners.  John Harrison – the new Peter Pan?

A frantic version of ‘Black Bottom’ with much guitar slapping is followed by the Jimmy Cox classic ‘Nobody knows you (when you’re down and out’) and, as John takes his well-deserved applause, more people arrive in search of a square inch of carpet to sit/stand on.


It was good to hear Folk Club piano stalwart Günther Peters and also hear Regine Perry-Mertens with Stephen Foster’s ‘Old Folks at Home’.  Ever since I  played Foster’s ‘Hard Times Come again no more’ at the club a couple of years ago and researched the man, I am at once happy that his music is still so popular and sad at his shocking death as a poverty-stricken man – in 2018 he would be as rich as Paul McCartney.

Poems and recitals followed by Peter Deteren, Gert Müller and Wolfgang Schriefer The latter reading a funny Story from the late Roger Willemsen.


As Bonn Folk Club heads towards its centenary evening, Brother Movement were already celebrating a Centenary  – the 100th appearance of the dynamic  Ledermann twins onstage together.  The ‘Game of Thrones’ inspired ‘Nightwatch’ got them off to a flying start.  ‘Roundabouts’ by Michael Patrick Kelly was an inspired choice, since the Man himself has recently been added to the Kunst!Rasen roster for next Summer.  ‘Like a Picture’ rounded off the brothers first set of the evening in typical Bromo style – except for a surprise encore in Spanish.  Okay, that was a surprise, and a nice one too.

I remember David Blair from his last Folk Club appearance.  It seems that David came over to Germany some three years ago to play and has been happily doing so ever since.  Tonight he has a new CD to offer, and that’s always a good thing at a club where the performers don’t get paid.  Some of the shier musicians need John Harrison’s helping voice to get the CD’s selling: Gentle reminders of how many shopping days there are until Christmas, and how polite it is to offer visiting musicians a drink – or buy their new disc.  “David’s come all the way from Canada” was John’s introduction this evening.  Sympathy votes are not needed for David Blair though, and he certainly isn’t a shy guy – you can buy t-shirts on his website declaring ‘I was hugged by David Blair’ ‘No Off Switch’ is a sweetly sung love song with it’s refrain that “I’m turned on, forever by you”.  Most telling though is the lyric “I turn sighs into smiling faces”.  Actually a perfect way to describe David Blairs music and personality.

Heike Winkhoff was joined on guitar by Frank Loer for some fine songs including Steven Wilson’s ‘The day before you came’ which reminded me of the best concert I didn’t see at this year’s Kunst!Rasen by the Porcupine Tree frontman.


Bernahrdt Meyer’s set in part two was something of a light-heared one musically, including as it did the Eric Idle comedy classic ‘Always look on the bright side of life’ along with Klaus hoffmann’s ryly comic look at the red-light side of life ‘Salambo’ before Daniel Bongart made his latest appearance.  Daniel seems to grow in confidence and stature by every appearance and his songs are always thoughtful in lyric and execution.   The melancholic ‘Dreaming Tree’ was balanced by a more upbeat ‘Listen to your child’s soul’ before a duet, with John Harrison on harmonica, on ‘Fly Bird Fly’ rounded off a super set of self-penned songs.  Already looking forward to what your next appearance has in store Daniel!


The second sets by Brother Movement and David Blair also had their moments and their guests to keep the evenings excellent momentum going.  Particularly notable was Lena Walbröl joining Brother Movement for ‘2002’, a song about memories of romance long past set in a year that seems, to my aging memory, not so very long ago.  Time, as they say, flies!  Magic also from David Blair at the piano for ‘As you let go’.

Quick mentions as well for two excellent walk-in spots this evening.  Gordon Matthews, from up the road from my home town of Portsmouth in England, delivered a fine ‘Let the light Shine’ acapello and the duo Wandering Souls provided magic pure with ‘I will keep on Going’ leaving me with the hope of a longer set by them sometime soon.


With the ever increasing interest in Bonn Folk Club John Harrison might need to invest in a shoe horn before long to get everyone into the room who comes by.  December 7th will see the much loved Simon Kempston back with a new CD so bring some money for that, and of course, get there early for a seat!



Finally, David Blair with his new release…



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