“I was expecting a full room- but not one packed to overflowing!” Head of Bonn’s Culture Department (Kulturamt) Susanne König was clearly taken by surprise at the popularity of Bonn’s Folk Club at Dotty’s. She was there to celebrate the Club’s 10th Anniversary, along with Bonn’s Rock & Pop Representative Hans-Joachim Over and some of the best young musical talents in Bonn. In all some 17 acts took part. Why so many? Because when the discussion came regarding who to invite at the Club AGM before Christmas, someone foolishly said “We should invite the best in Bonn, everybody, they won’t all want to come” – except they did!
Showtime is 7 pm but I made sure to be at Dotty’s before 6 pm as it was clearly going to be even busier than usual. Even then I had to grab a chair from the bar. Come 6:45 pm I gave up the chair to our prominent guest and moved to a newly vacant chair nearby. Come 7 pm I gave up the new chair for the floor when our next guest arrived – although Hans-Joachim Over (Hajo), bless him, was happy to sit on the floor. It’s just that I realised he actually now had a better view from there than I did…
Mrs König was clearly impressed by the turnout as previously noted. When she confided during her speech that she also sang there were immediate calls for an instant floor-spot. I don’t think even John Harrison saw that one coming. It is, as Mrs König pointed out, very apt that Bonn Folk Club takes place in a sports club. Music being the best medicine for the soul as sport is for the body. Barry arrived with his time clock in hand for the evening and I wondered if we were about to buzzer our guest for overstepping her five minutes…
Back to a semblance of normal Folk Club order with John Harrison kicking things off. Fittingly he chose a poem from Albert Guest ‘Somebody Said’ with the lines :
A better description of John’s task ten years ago when he discussed starting a Folk Club would be hard to imagine. Also fitting was Fred Wedlock’s song ‘The Folker’ since it was the first-ever song sang at Bonn Folk Club when things began at Schützenhaus in Grauerheindorf ten years ago. How times have changed – now here we are in Dottendorf with an audience spilling into the next room, and John often even has a ‘band’ behind him in the form of Eva Henneken and her always tasteful violin accompaniments.
A short violin piece by Tim, who at seven years old is quite possibly a new record for young musicians onstage (accompanied by his mother of course) before we had another bit of Folk Club history to re-live. New visitors may well shake their heads when John talks of someone who plays just one song as being an ‘Annette’. Well, today, not only was that explained, but the original Annette (actually Zita from the Blues Brothers Coverband Heart & Soul) was on hand to play the original Annette song ‘Loch in der Banana’. Wonderful memories and it was a shame that Günther Peters who stoically played piano at the first Club meet was unable to make it today.
Do you want more Club nostalgia? The banner that proudly hangs on the wall proclaims the motto ‘Folk is great, Beer is Good, People are Crazy’ and tonight Barry Roshto introduced the hastily formed Folk Club Allstars to sing the original by Billy Currington where ‘Folk’ in the title is actually replaced by ‘God’. I hope God loves Folk Music, there was no thunder during the song so, evidently, he does.
So what does a Folk Club strive for? The best local musicians to come and play for one. Cynthia Nickschas began singing in the streets, got noticed by German composer/singer Konstantin Wecker as a ‘one-of-a-kind’ talent and has since proved his observation to be correct by playing her songs to ever-increasing and ever more enthusiastic crowds as well as releasing two of the best contemporary German Pop discs to come out of Germany. The latter of these ‘Egoschwein’ was one of her three songs this evening. She could have played thirty songs and still had calls for more. There were however more than a dozen musicians waiting in the wings (or more accurately, hidden amongst the audience or looking over heads from the open door of the adjacent lounge bar). Yes, Cynthia came, and Cynthia conquered, same procedure as every show. Magic will out.
Guests for the evening were the Four Fiddlers and I hope someone told them this was going to be an extra-ordinary Folk Club evening. Even as far as fiddle players go, they were outnumbered. We actually had ten of said instrument playing at one point. There were probably more fiddles here than in the rest of Bonn put together – but I digress.
The Four Fiddlers are Ariane Böker, Daniel Marsch, Steffi Hölzle and Ecki Schwandke and their brand of European/North American fiddle music really is contagious. You can’t help but be drawn into their World and melodies. They showed too the breadth of music that Bonn Folk Club embraces. “Gibt es noch Steigerungsmöglichkeiten für den kleinen, improvisierten und in der Freizeit organisierten Folk Club? Ja sie gibt es, und die Four Fiddlers sind der lebende Beweis dafür. Die Special Guests des Abends schickten ein wahres Feuerwerk an Spielfreude, Musikalität, Vielseitigkeit und Originalität“. What’s more, I stole that quote from a review of Bonn Folk Club in June 2012!
Time to Close part one – with Jock Stuart? Well, we wanted our visitors to get a feel for the atmosphere of a Folk Club, so John asked ‘Is it too early to sing Jock Stuart?’ When the audience, fearing they were about to be sent home with the show over, replied ‘Yes!’ John calmed them with the possibility that we might just repeat the song later… Relief all round.
The break proved an ideal opportunity to enjoy a piece of Anniversary Cake that was presented earlier. It was consumed it seemed in milliseconds by hungry musicians and audience rather like the music itself had been so eagerly consumed, and it was time for some more special guests and some carefully controlled timing…
Steve and Regine had put together a witty new song especially about Folk Club (not the last of such as it was to prove) and so had tailored it to the time available. Holger Riedel’s ditty about the famous Bonn train barriers that dissect the City also managed to survive Barry’s two-minute clock. Somehow, even after a long introduction, even Jutta and Mario’s song survived. Larissa Lae’s dreamy Fantasy songs in her own language calmed everybody down for a moment, and Martha gave us another calming two minutes with her violin and ‘Drowsy Maggie‘. Volker Lindner managed the herculean task of not only condensing Black Sabbath’s ‘Iron Man’ to two minutes but doing it on a fiddle. Amazing stuff indeed.
If I had to pick a highlight amongst the many highlights it would have to be between the two following acts. Dennis Ledermann has come a long way since his first nervous appearance at Folk Club Bonn, and it was a pleasure to hear him recall how important the Club has been to him: From his first-ever live appearance, to a CD release party with his brother as Bromo, to meeting his girlfriend at a meeting (check the Folk Club website homepage for a picture of the two on that occasion). Even more of a pleasure was the song that he had specially written for this evening – a wonderfully catchy ditty that had the whole audience joining in even though he had never played it outside of his house before this evening. A magic moment.
Speaking of magic moments…
You might have seen Makeda onstage in the recent musical run of The Bodyguard in Cologne, or perhaps with her popular band Steal a Taxi. Outside of Bonn a lot of people will have seen her come within four votes of representing Germany at last years Eurovision Song Contest. She was certainly on the list for me of people we should ask but would almost certainly reply with a ‘thanks but no thanks’ except, instead, she said ‘Yes, it would be a pleasure to sing for you’ Maybe it helped that John turned out to be a former neighbour of hers. “I didn’t realise you could sing then” he laughed when introducing her. Well, she certainly can sing! Forget Eurovision, it was Bonn Folk Club who got to hear ‘The Day I Loved You Most’ acapella for the first time ever, anywhere. No shimmering gold dress, no 30 piece orchestra, and no flames cascading down from the ceiling behind her for effect. Not even a microphone. It was, she admitted, the first time she has ever sung totally acapella. She’d brought her guitar along, but finally trusted the audience to stay quiet – and we were rewarded with five minutes of pure vocal magic where only a couple of camera shutter clicks disturbed the silence.
We were lucky recently to hear the talented 2Sunny again at Folk Club after a lengthy absence. Tatjana Schwartz and Ralf Haupts go back a long way with Folk Club though. It was Ralf who helped carry the banner in 2014. A true soldier for the cause. They continued the euphoric mood created by so many talented musicians with the wise words of Hildegard Knef ‘Ich möchte am Montag Sonntag haben’ and finished in Carnival mood with a rhumba styled ‘So We Dance’.
A second-half set by The Four Fiddlers was the perfect way to continue the celebrations before John announced for the second time tonight that it was time for ‘Jock Stewart‘ to sing us home.
It was hard to believe that the tenth Anniversary of Bonn Folk Club was over – I had to look at the crumbs where once a cake had been to remind myself it wasn’t my imagination. We had managed to get some of the most talented local musicians to come along on one evening, to sing in some cases just a single song. No one brought an ego with them. Everyone came, everyone saw, and every single one of them conquered the audience in the time they were given.
Suzanne König had said how sorry she was not to be able to stay all evening, but that she was sure Hajo would tell her what a wonderful evening she had missed. Out of the corner of my eye, I caught her happily singing along to Jock Stuart first time around. I’m sure Hajo will have been able to report that by the second singing of the said anthem, there was pure magic in the air. Frau König – An Annette is on hold for you whenever you want to sing at Bonn Folk Club, and a seat awaits you too if you just want to listen. That goes for anyone else reading this review as well – Except I can’t guarantee the seat anymore. Come early!