John Harrison not only got street music in Bonn going again last week-end, he also got to enjoy live music in the City from others. Here is his report on the return of outdoor music and a visit to Folk Club venue Dotty’s where a glimmer of hope for future Folk meetings was suggested by a live appearance on the tennis court by local legends Room-Service.
After a couple of hot days, it was still warm early Sunday evening (2 August), and unlike when there was a folk club on in bygone days, I could hear the music already as I was traversing the railway crossing on foot just outside of Base Camp on the Ollenhauer Straße.
Waiting for live music in Bonn, has been a little like waiting for buses. First, for over four months there was absolutely nothing, and then suddenly several all turn up at once. I recently had the pleasure of listening to Cynthia Nickschas and her group of friends outside of the little theatre under the cedar tree outdoors along with 99 other seated music lovers, kindly organised by a collaboration between Das KleinesTheater and KuKuG Kunst und Kultur association, Bad Godesberg in what has now become a regular Monday night weekly event.
The city of Bonn have seemingly been bending over backwards to try and get things moving again by issuing street music permits from 01.08.2020, still for the princely sum of € 25,- and now with designated places to perform, indelibly painted on to the pavements to ensure the necessary Coronavirus spatial distancing between the performer and the audience. It is not ideal, but if one thinks back, was anything really that ideal pre-Coronavirus? I for one was certainly grateful to the city of Bonn for trying to set up a system whereby pedestrians can now once again walk through the thoroughfares of Beethoven’s birthplace with some unexpected melodies in their ears.
So it was that I had spent the last two days busking on what is still the hardest stage on God’s earth and was pleasantly tired, but somehow gratified, that everything had worked out so well. I was extra fortunate as I had even had the pleasure of managing to play at an impromptu outdoor concert on the Saturday evening jamming with Werner Krotz-Vogel and Claudia Huisman from meoneo and Dietrich Kolk delivering some funky cello in the Villa Castanjen arboretum by the Rhine in Plitterdorf.
I was now at the door of BTHV Bonn’s tennis and hockey sports club, and the music was now even louder. A notice cautions that face masks should be worn in the grounds, and that distancing rules should be followed. There are forms laid out everywhere for details to be recorded should it be necessary for traceability to be effected any time in the future. Luckily, the regulations have been eased since this event was first conceived and now up to 300 people can now participate, with the necessary spatial distancing, instead of only 100 people under the previous regulations for outdoor events.
A further cause for gratitude today is due here also to the committee of the BTHV, because it is at this address and in this very building that Folk Club Bonn has been fortunately able to meet for the past four years on the first Friday of the month, until March this year when the Coronavirus brought our monthly meetings to a crashing halt. It was then with a certain nostalgia that I was listening to some live music again, not indoors in the large room adjacent to Dotty’s bar as per Folk Club, but at least from the balcony outdoors overlooking the group from above. The group themselves a four-piece rock cover band billed out as the „legendary BTHV band“ and known under the name of „Room-Service“ are indeed legendary here and have been the BTHV band for the last quarter of a century.
The history of BTHV is much older and the club was founded already in the year 1903. „Room-Service“ actually played at the centenary celebrations in the year 2003 and also played this evening a song which the group, two of whose members are still active members of BTHV, penned themselves in honour of the club, which drummer Günter Christen duly announced before the song as „Weiß und Lila“ whose colours celebrate the club and its competing colours of white and lilac. It seemed that everyone in the audience knew the refrain of „Weiß Und Lila, wir kommen immer wieder“ „White and Lilac we always come again“, although it rhymes better in German than English I must admit.
This pioneering event was billed as The 1st ever Centre Court Concert, so hopefully it will be the first of many more to come. The band actually played in the tennis court number 1 centre court arena positioned diagonally in the south-western corner of the court. The hallowed surface of the court protected by a large smooth flat-bottomed underlay which meant that all four musicians and the weight of all their instruments and equipment left no detrimental lasting flaws on the court surface. The fact that this court is also sunk into the ground
somewhat helped to enhance the acoustics by imposing a sort of amphitheatre effect on the sound – channelling it towards the audience who were sat all around on the numerous benches surrounding the court and also to the large well-visited balcony above, which afforded an excellent view of what was going on to match the excellent sound. I even spotted former ‘Mein Host’ Rudolf Sträter (Dotty’s father) also enjoying the weather and the music from the balcony.
„Room Service“ are a tight four-piece band and apart from Günther on the drums are completed by Georg Heckelsberg on bass and two guitarists, Jörg Stanikowsky and Oliver Schneider. All of the band contribute to the vocals at some stage or other. Unfortunately, I could not stay for the whole performance but the renderings that I did hear were very impressive, „Money For Nothing“ from Dire Straits. Two numbers from the Doobie Brothers, „Without Love“ and „Listen to the Music“ and „Brown Sugar“ from the Stones and the very soulful „Black Magic Woman“ very poignant following the tragic recent passing of Fleetwood Mac guitarist Peter Green.
If one could fault the music for anything it was perhaps the lack of a blues harp on the Doobie Brothers songs, but the highlight seemed to be for the people around me the BAP standard „Verdammt lang her“ which, perhaps because it was in German, and also so very well known, received some very enthusiastic chorusing from the crowd. This song „damned long time ago“ certainly hit a chord with the audience, for most of whom it was the first live music that they had experienced since the onset of Coronavirus, and although it is really only five short months ago since we were all confronted with this life-changing virus it does seem such a „damned long time ago“ since we last experienced the good old days, of what used to pass muster for „normality.“
The last meet of Folk Club Bonn really does seem now „verdammt lang her“ but let us hope that things improve, that a vaccine is on its way and that we can perhaps think a bit more outside the box, and manage to get it up and running again sometime soon.
– Written by John Harrison