The theme at Dotty’s Sports Bar for Folk Club Bonn meet number 106 was colours. But are Black (Back to Black) and White (Nights in White Satin) actually colours? Another question – what was that red plastic barrel on John’s finger for? Pull up a chair (or risk sitting on the floor), grab a beer when the waitress comes round with her tray, and settle down for another evening of music in all shapes, sizes, and colours…
In answer to the first question – Black passed the ‘colour’ test from MC John Harrison. Well, he couldn’t really say otherwise since two of his openers were ‘Black is the colour of my true love’s Hair’ and ‘Black Bottom’. But anyway, before we could argue over the colour question, Steve joined John for some audience involvement – ‘The Grand Old Duke Of York’ with a request that everybody stood to the line ‘Rode them up to the TOP of the hill’ and sat again to the answering refrain – “And rode them DOWN again’. It got confusing of course when we arrived at the line “When they were up they were up. When they were down they were down. When they were only half way up…” Always a favourite song of mine at school, and still a great workout song to introduce between long meetings at the next Company seminar for sure.
Doc Wolfman (Wolfgang Kessel) Had obviously read the rider for this evenings show, his opener being Donovan’s ‘Colours’. Mr Wolfman (or Mr Kessel?) even donned a blue waterproof hat for authenticity during a German interpretation of Pete Seeger’s ‘Windy Old Weather (Fish of the Sea)’. Nice to see the effort put in to entertain visually, and he well deserved the reward of having the whole audience sing along to his accordion.
Lothar Prünte was on hand to plug the appearance of tonight’s guest stars at his Club (sub-club even?) ELPI’s Hinterzimmer the following day. Lothar, it was who played havoc with the colour theme by singing both ‘Back to Black’ and ‘Nights in White Satin’. Colours or not colours? That is the question. Luckily John Harrison, like all of us Brits, has enough to worry about with Brexit to consider penalty measures for possible transgressions of theme, and anyway, further spurious explanations were to come – see my review further down on Squint Side’s set.
Last month saw the first appearance of Shayan at Bonn Folk Club. The young Iranian proved very popular with his Troubador style flamenco guitar style. Shayan’s promise this evening of returning soon, to sing in Deutsch, met with great applause. I rather like however the mysterious dramatic veil that his songs have when sung in Iranian. He may be quietly spoken when you meet him, but Shayan lets his music speak loud and eloquently for him. Whatever the language you choose next time around Shayan – you are very welcome indeed!
Shawn Spicer will be known to many readers as Baritone Sax player in the Bonn Jazz Orchestra and for his involvement in promoting music via the Musikschule der Stadt Bonn. Having heard Shawn play a few times now I was disappointed he hadn’t brought his sax. He had however brought Gregor Salz, who is an excellent guitarist. Shawn also brought three of his own songs, and by the end of the duo’s all too short set, I had quite forgotten about the absent saxophone. The final song had me particularly spellbound. ‘In the Blink of an Eye’ was inspired a year ago as Texans saw a hurricane take their homes away, literally, in the blink of an eye. Closing my eyes I could imagine I was listening to Johnny Cash from one of his American Recordings with Rick Rubin. Not something I had anticipated when Shawn and Gregor first began their set. One of those many wonderful surprises that evenings at Bonn Folk Club deliver.
As always there was a smattering of ‘Annettes’ to enjoy. Solo spots arranged at short notice. Two were by established Folk Club acts (but nonetheless welcome for that). Folk Club’s own ‘Billy Bragg’ Gert Schinkel had discovered a song that addresses the present sticking point of Boris Johnson’s planned (threatened?) Brexit. It was based on a song by Phil Coulter ‘The Town I Love So Well’ to describe how his hometown of Derry had been ruined by the disagreements and wars that came to rage in Ireland. German singer/songwriter Hannes Wader took up the song as a German text and finally here we had Gert with ‘Der Ort an der er gern noch war’. As always, food for thought from Gert Schinkel.
Daniel Bongart was last seen by me belting out songs like Billy Idol’s ‘White Wedding’ with Winterfeld in Poppelsdorf. Tonight he’s back and solo – although he has brought along copies of his brand new CD ‘Little Bird’, Daniel’s song this evening ‘Autumn Feeling’ isn’t on it. So if you want to take the new song home with you, you will need to buy the present disc so that Daniel can finance a new one with ‘Autumn Feeling’ on it. Clearly, Daniel is almost as good a businessman as he is a singer/songwriter. Both new CD and even newer song are excellent by the way!
Rabbits on Trees anyone? I had to make a note of that name to check it online. Not too surprisingly, Rabbits On Trees only appears once on Google and belongs to one Lucas from Bonn. The said Lucas from Bonn also has a disc out called ‘A Piece of bridge to the head’ which is as confusing a title as his chosen band name. It features a lighthouse on its cover – which seems appropriate for a man who seems well over six feet tall. His songs, like the man himself, are not easily overlooked. If you want to get the full effect of Lucas’ punk/folk style then I recommend checking out his CD. ‘Stay Away Kids’ sounded quite lively and quirky with just an acoustic for backing but check out the disc version for head-on effect. “Let’s go into the forest. I would like to hug a tree” begins the second number from Lucas. It ends with everyone whistling. Not to get him off stage I should add, but because it has such a catchy tune that has to be repeated. Fresh from finishing his studies, Lucas has decided on a musical career. From tonight’s evidence, he has a lot of talent and confidence on his side. Definitely someone I will be listening out for in the coming month’s concert wise – which will hopefully also include more visits to Bonn Folk Club.
I wasn’t quite sure what to make of Squint Side when they came out of the practice room door to play. Western cowboy hats gave me a possible scenario. They did even start with ‘Wagon Wheel’ which, pun intended, rolled along pleasantly. ‘Leef Marie’ fitted the evening’s theme by being a Cologne Carnival favourite – and Cologne Carnival is of course very colourful! Okay, a spurious link, but who cares as we all got to sing along, and anyone who had trouble with the lyrics could just look at the lady on table three holding them up on a big sheet of card… “La La La, La La Laaa”
Last, but not, as they say, least, we had a return to Bonn from the Italian duo Serena Finatti and Andrea Varnier. Straight away I have to admit that I don’t speak Italian. A quick Google on the duo’s new CD ‘Fragile e Fiera’ suggests that through my linguistic limitations I am missing a lot where this evening’s main guests are concerned: To quote – “The record, more generally, is a reflection on today’s generation that meets and clashes with speed, images and slogans revealing itself to be fragile and incapable of being happy despite having everything. The texts announce themselves already very busy socially and politically, the intent is to transmit, to the new generations, the desire to fight for their rights, for peace, for truth and for justice”. Heady stuff indeed.
Certainly, ‘Chissa’ is a song with a serious history. It concerns the fate of Giulio Regeni, a Cambridge student tortured and murdered in Cairo in 2016. At the time Regini, who is from the same area of Italy as Serena and Andrea, was researching trade unions in Egypt. Even today his murderers have not been positively identified although as recently as last November Italy had named suspected Egyptian Agents. The song is not so much about Giulio so much as a letter addressed to him through the lyrics explains Andrea.
‘Chissa’ is a signal that Serena’s songs coming from some deep places, but they also stem from some more traditional inspiration – such as love and romance. ‘Abbracciami’ for example is a love song. As Andrea puts it “Every songwriter wants to write great love songs and Serena has written many love songs – all for me!” which gets a laugh, not just from the audience, but from Serena herself. Typical of the material from this duo though is the fact that although I don’t understand the words, they are delivered with a hypnotic vocal and Serena, true to her Italian nationality, is as expressive with her hands and arms as she is with her mouth when she sings.
There are moments too when anyone can join in singing, in any language. One such is ‘E Penso a Te’ (I’m Thinking of You’) which won an Italian song contest. Alongside some beautifully delicate finger-style, guitar picking from Andrea the song has an irresistible La, la, la sing along as icing on its musical plate, and how those la,la,la’s gradually faded out with an entire audience singing them will certainly remain one of those magical Folk Club moments at Dotty’s.
Was there still time after such a long evening for Jock Stuart? Do Bees buzz? does water flow? All answers emphatically ‘yes!’. A good time, in short, was once again had by all.
Oh, that red barrel on John’s finger? I think a certain music shop and its proprietor (a Mr Baum) had a moment of divine inspiration and saw John, in his capacity of MC at an acoustic event, as the perfect purveyor of a mini shaker. So now you will be able to hear when John gets nervous during Folk Club – is that a rattle-snake behind the piano? or is John telling me to cut the next three verses, because we are running over time?
Finally, Rabbits On Trees fully plugged in…