It might look smoothly asphalted to the eye, but the road to Dotty’s Sports Bar for Folk Club Bonn‘s September meet was a rough one indeed. A long one too, as John Harrison will tell you. Involving numerous meetings with the owner and correspondence between Folk Club and the powers that be in Bonn. In the end, though it was a worthwhile journey. The Hockey pitch at Dotty’s proving to be an excellent open-air venue, and the weather being much kinder than anyone had a right to expect in the early days of Autumn. Perhaps God is a folk music fan? Or perhaps he just realised that good music was good for the souls of his creations in this Pandemic riddled World we are all enduring.
Speaking of Souls, we had rather special guests from Cologne in the young and talented duo Wandering Souls. Very apt for those of us who wandered with our souls down past the tennis courts, sharp left, and sharp right again, to a green and pleasant sports pitch. If we were in any doubt about its chief purpose, the dozen or so teenagers running up and down at the other end in jerseys and shorts was a reminder.
Yes, those long pdf’s of do’s and don’ts certainly left a lot to organize. Several pages, which seemed to boil down to one instruction. “You can go ahead, just as long as you do everything relevant to your event that the following pages tell you to do and don’t do things relevant to you that you should not”. So we got there early to do what we should and ensure we didn’t do what we shouldn’t: Entrance table, list of attendees with details, chalk lines between the possible people needing to queue, a good supply of car tires to keep the statutory distance between musicians and audience, benches carefully spaced out, a mini keg of Kölsch (and plastic cups of course – not ‘Umweltfreundlich’ I know, but necessary).
A 6:30 pm start and no break (to be finished before dark) and amplifiers were also necessary for the evening. Yes, you read that correctly, amplifiers at a Folk Club meeting! Admittedly, just the small battery-powered variety, but John Harrison had to grit his teeth and go with some form of amplification. He didn’t need to grit his teeth against the weather though, as the familiar ‘Ladies & Gentlemen’ kicked off an evening in pleasant temperature and the lightest of breezes. A borrowed, re-written take on Fred Wedlock’s ‘The Folker’ (borrowed in turn musically from Simon & Garfunkel’s The Boxer) to reflect the circumstances of a Bad Godesbergian Folk singer in 2020:
“Well, my name`s “Lead Fingers Harrison” and my story’s seldom told,
But I massacre folk music with a yard of American plywood and a capo,
I do requests- but just the ones that have two chords in,
And I disregard the rest…”
As always it was a pleasure to hear Eva Henneken accompany John, especially on the sensitively played ‘Green Man’, a song written by Folk Club Guest star of a few years ago now Martin Donnolly. Black Bottom from Omar Kent Dykes finished off John and Eva’s set nicely and in the time it takes to think about going to the Kölsch keg for a cool pint special guests Wandering Souls were onstage.
If you’ve caught the duo from Cologne live before, then you will know how well their voices harmonize. If you didn’t know this then the opening ‘300 Miles’ would have been a very pleasant surprise. The lyrics of ‘Music Never Dies’ are certainly more resonant than ever, showing it will survive more than a Virus and cancelled concerts around the World: “It brings peace, it brings war. Brings us together, tears us apart… Old stories with new rhymes, music never dies”. Lorena and Gerrit really are a very talented pair who hopefully will have enjoyed their visit to Bonn enough to fit in some more shows here when and wherever possible. Check out their concert livestream from Blueshell in Cologne for a taster.
Wandering Souls also have an EP out right now titled ‘Winding Roads’ and I would have been straight down to the table where it was on sale – except that I was next on stage. I hadn’t got John’s email (or it was spammed) to say I could play a song. As a result, I had to ask my better half back at home to rush my guitar down to me. It arrived as the show started, so I was too busy taking photos to check the tuning. In my defence, it was certainly perfect two days before when I last played it… Plugging into an unknown amplifier, without tuning up, and with no monitor is not something I can recommend – for performer or audience. At least the dog at the back didn’t start howling during my rendition of ‘St James Infirmary Blues’. Maybe he couldn’t hear it? I will never know, It was an experience.
Fortunately, Mario Dompke followed me with one of the best sets I’ve yet seem him perform. Mario is clearly a man at home with the sky above his stage and an appreciative audience to entertain. He certainly knows how to engage an audience, and quickly had everyone singing along. ‘Zahle doch nicht in Junger Jahren’ is one us older generation can identify with, ‘Der Unglücks Blues’ is something everyone can understand and “Tanzreigen” goes back even further than those of us who agreed with the sentiments of Mario’s first number – a medieval dance song from the mountains of Switzerland I’m reliably informed. It certainly proved popular on the flatlands of Dotty’s Hockeypitch in 2020.
I didn’t catch the song titles from Fliege‘s enthusiastic appearance. I tried to Google ‘Fliege’ for his real name, and my result unearthed a tax consultant, I’m pretty sure the ‘Fliege’ onstage was not the same person, but who can tell? Fliege shall remain a mystery. How to stop Fliege after his statutory two songs will also remain a mystery. Enthusiasm will out. The clock was ticking and the light finally starting to fade as today’s main guests took the stage.
CAYU is the current name of this happy and talented band. You probably know them already as World Music Bonn though. Folk, jazz, bossa nova, flamenco and pop with vocals, violin, guitar, keyboard and cajón gives you an idea of the literal bandwidth of the music. A fine set, from the opening traditional Gypsy swing of Djelem djelem to the closing cover of Amy MacDonald’s ‘This is the Life’ again shows the sheer breadth of music that the band cover. CAYO, with their enthusiasm and eclectic musical repertoire, really are a joy to watch and hear.
Many things have been different from normal Folk Club meetings this evening. The visible sky above our heads and grass beneath our feet. The attendance sheet, the park benches and the amplifiers. Two things though remained the same – one, that we over-ran the planned finish (of 8 pm) and two, that we sang ‘Jock Stuart’ albeit only after everyone was safely at the predefined distance from one another that singing outdoors on a hockey pitch allows. It was getting dark by the time we finished, but the world itself seemed very much lighter for such a shared evening.
Dotty’s Hockey Ground then proved to be an excellent Summer location for Folk Music. Sadly though, with Summer at an end, not a solution for the Autumn/Winter months. Discussions are ongoing for the future of Folk Club Bonn at present and whilst nothing is so bright that you have to wear shades, there is optimism that Jock Stuart will again make his presence known in Bonn this year. We certainly need his good cheer as tonight amply proved.
and finally… here is the song that brought Wandering Souls together. They met when Lorena played Lego House whilst Gerrit was in the same corner. It was a favourite song of Geritt’s and they immediately played it together – and have been playing songs together ever since!