The Poppelsdorfer Strassenfest has become a popular place to be over the years. Indeed, by 7pm I usually feel like an ant trying to cross a motorway without getting knocked down or indeed, squashed flat. Good news then that two bands I wanted to catch were due onstage before that watershed time of chaos. Winterfeld and Sunny Skies were the bands in question – yes, Sunny Skies playing whilst the sun was actually in the sky…
Winterfeld are a band I’ve managed to miss on several occasions already. A shame, particularly as their singer Daniel Bongart is a popular part of Bonn Folk Club. A better time to catch Daniel there will never be though as he has just this week released his debut CD ‘Little Bird’ (and a fine collection of self-penned acoustic numbers it is too).
The music of Winterfeld though has its roots more in the Neue Deutsche Welle Sound of the early ’80s. You might remember Nena with her 99 Hot Air Balloons? Well, things were getting mainstream by then. Extrabreit’s ‘Hurra, Hurra, Die Schule Brennt’ is a great example of the genres original energy and is still a fun tune in 2019 even if Winterfeld are no longer precocious teenagers.
Billy Idol gets two run outs – with White Wedding and later with Rebel Yell (he even gets another and much louder run-out later with Sunny Skies). An enjoyable band then, with bags of enthusiasm. Daniel surprises me with tackling the Billy Idol numbers so successfully and especially so later with BAP’s ‘Verdamp Lang Her’ managing to wring emotion out of the verses even though 90% of the audience were just itching for the chorus and the chance to punch fists into the air and chant the chorus. Very much like at the Kunstrasen with Wolfgang Niedecken in fact.
Sunny Skies onstage at 6pm? The band has become a staple act to end the evening in past years. Band leader Rope Schmitz takes it with the pinch of salt that comes with 50 years stage experience – “It’s nice, we’ll have more time to get a few drinks after our set” he smiles.
Actually, with an extended soundcheck, the band get a little closer to sun-down than their timetable suggests. By 6.30pm though it’s business as usual for the best cover band in Bonn since – well, 50 years. There’s a new face on bass with Uwe Rodewald but the music rocks as much as ever and Martin Behr still smiles innocently whilst pumping out solos that Ritchie Blackmore would not be averse to claiming. Indeed, it’s Behr and vocalist Babsi Nitsche who really keep the Skies Flag flying high. Relative vocal newcomer Harry Braun has the right hair to cover Gillan but doesn’t seem to really hit top gear, as if he’s always holding back. Maybe I’m being unfair – Patrick Suhl was a hard act to follow.
Babsi Nitsche though really gives it all she’s got. A result of those times onstage with Suhl I suspect. Certainly, the two were a potent Rock combination that I miss. Beth Ditto’s ‘Heavy Cross’ has been a highlight for me since I first heard Babsi attack it, and with Martin Behr’s searing guitar work it’s one of those songs that, well, The Skies do it better than the original in my book.
It’s easily taken for granted, but the band continues to breathe fire into older Rock classics. Before the band began I was walking away from the stage and heard the unmistakable voice of Freddie Mercury singing ‘Keep Yourself Alive’ coming out of the stage monitors as the Sunny Skies gear was being set up. A lady beside me said to her partner with a smile “Sounds like Sunny Skies are warming up”. I still wonder if she was joking. If not, it really was a compliment indeed. Deep Purple warming up? Well yes, except when the gear was set up Martin Behr tested it with what sounded like a chunky chorded ‘Streets of London’, So you couldn’t mistake him for Ritchie Blackmore – oh, and he was smiling too… Very un-Ritchie, very un-rock n roll, but very Sunny Skies. Long may they grace our stages, at any time of the day.