So, ladies and gentlemen, who was that masked man behind the microphone on the hockey pitch stage on Friday at Dotty’s? One thing is for sure, it wasn’t the Lone Ranger, or Batman either for that matter. A Superhero was not required. No one needed rescuing on this 114th edition of Folk Club Bonn. Or was it the 2nd edition of Folk Club Bonn Lite? Historians are feverishly working on this conundrum as I write. They will be in agreement at any rate that it was a relatively warm breeze which blew across the Hockey Pitch and that when raindrops did fall occasionally, they were generally warm, soft and far between each other. Much better in fact than an evening pre-named ‘Woodstock Revisited’ had any right to wish for. Again, I say unto you: God is a Folk Club fan.
To report it was an evening without problems would be to lie however. A 6 pm start had been cleared with Dotty’s – but no one had told the local rugby and hockey juniors of the fact. they were due to train “Until at least 6.30pm!” we were told. Oh, and there will also be a Hockey team warming up from half past seven for a game – that is due to take place from 8pm on, would you believe? the field right next to the one we were playing on. But if we had it tough, the poor waiter having to bring trays of beer all the way out to us from the restaurant as there was also no arrangement for a ‘keg’ to be available outside this time had it tougher. A big thanks to Matteo then, our unsung hero of the evening!
So it was that the mysterious masked man (see picture) got things off to a hesitant start with numbers including one that I myself requested because my own version of St James Infirmary was so out of tune last month that I wanted to be reminded of how it should actually sound. Things were not so simple this time around either though. Where I had been struggling with an out of tune guitar (my fault), John this time was struggling to keep attention as groups of young athletes gathered up towels and rugby balls around him.
Things had quietened down a little thankfully by the time John played the moving ‘Angel in Disguise’ I rather thought God was enjoying the evening enough to take part in the proceedings as he let a few raindrops fall during ‘Mercedes Benz’ which John had chosen to go with the ‘Woodstock’ theme. Thankfully the Lord was only playing, and kept the drops to a minimum – adding occasionally throughout the evening for dramatic effect I like to think.
Next up was myself, this time with a perfectly tuned guitar (I even had John Hay double check it!). I wanted to be as perfect as possible because my song was actually in tribute to the late and great Peter Green who died in July. His Story is a rather sad one, with Schizophrenia robbing music of a very special talent. As BB King recalled, he was the Man BB found the most formidable of all the electric Bluesmen, for his emotional intonation on a guitar. He was also a wonderful lyricist and even described himself perhaps to perfection on the song ‘Man of the World’. I hope people weren’t too put off by somebody fiddling around with a light on my music stand whilst I was singing. It did drive me slightly loopy as I only had one song to sing and by the time they’d sorted it out my song was pretty well over. Anyway, here’s to you ‘Greeny’!
Shay McVeigh is also someone who knows good lyrics when he hears them for sure. You may have caught Shay doing a set at The Fiddlers in Endenich, so we were lucky indeed that he agreed to come and play a set at very short notice. the first number he did, called ‘In hell, I’ll be in good company’ was a rebel-rousing number originally from The Dead South. The second one was a real find for me. A song called ‘Pablo Picasso’ from an American songwriter new to me named Citizen Cope (aka Clarence Greenwood) which is all about a vagrant who falls in love with the 40-foot poster of a young woman behind him on the wall where he sleeps. So besotted is he in fact that the police have to deal with him when it comes time to change posters. An unusual topic. Nice find Shay! Last up was ‘The Dearly Departed’ from Rawlins Cross which was very Dylanesque (as indeed anything incorporating a harmonica on a rack seems to be). This one also had some very thoughtful lyrics – not least of which was the belief that we will all eventually become the things we do. I liked all of Sean songs. Interesting too that he made the Citizen Cope song his own as the original had a reggae melody and Sean took it back to a folk song. nice ones indeed, and I hope Sean comes back again soon for another set with us.
John Hay so often seen as a part of UN populated World-folk formations including the recent CAYU took his place behind the microphone alone this time, and I have to say he was a very, very brave man indeed to do so. John brought with him some songs by a gentleman that he is listening to at the moment – German folk legend Hannes Wader. Very brave because Wader’s songs are often not delivered in the ‘Hoch Deutsch’ that we Englishmen and women learn at school. In their time (the ‘70’s) Wader’s songs were political dynamite. A heavy torch to bear – so full marks for John’s renditions of ‘Uns Bleibt Keine Wahl’ about the 80’s stationing of Nuclear weapons in Europe. We have no choice’. ‘Heute Hier, Morgen Dort’ is an interesting choice – Wader’s song was adopted by Punk-rockers Die Toten Hosen and they even sang it together. . Germany’s answer to Ewan MaColl‘s‚The Manchester Rambler‘? Only joking.
John finished by abandoning all fear and singing a song made famous by Wader based on a North-Frisian Folksong ‘Hartleed’. This is in one of those dialects that makes you want to ask for the money from your German Language course back. For anyone who couldn’t follow it, the story concerns a young woman who hears her lovers ship has been sunk. ‘Don’t worry’, she is comforted. “He is a strong man and will survive the sinking’. She, however, has since lost her honour to a local soldier and actually hopes he won’t come back to witness her shame. A love song? Well, certainly a good deal more complicated than ‘Love Me Do’ or indeed ‘She Loves You, yeah, yeah, yeah’ I doff my hat to you for your courage in bringing these songs to Folk Club John. It also makes me wonder why we haven’t heard more of Wader’s songs from native Germans at Folk Club over the years.
Complicated story songs should have been the motto of tonights Folk Club. The special guests of the evening Fomiander certainly added to the tally with their choice from a colourful mix of Irish Folk and German text from times gone by.
‘Das Moor’ (The Moor) seemed like a simple celebration of nature around moorland, spoken word pushed forward by a melancholy flute/recorder. ‘All Souls Night’ was a typical number for bands like Pentangle in the early ’70s. Complicated-story songs were waiting around the corner though…
‘Back Home in Derry’ seems like a simple tale of homesickness. In fact, it was written by IRA chief Bobby Sands whilst incarcerated in the Maze prison (where he died on hunger strike). It tells the story of the penal transportation of Irishmen in the 19th century to Tasmania. The aurally gifted might recognize the tune which is ‘purloined’ from Gordon Lightfoot’s ‘’Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald’.
Did Mario and his musical compatriots this evening realize they were playing a song banned by the BBC? Controversy at Bonn Folk Club! None of the people passing by on the way to the neighbouring field for the impending hockey game seemed to complain. Concern was more for where the beers would come from and who was paying.
‘Ye Jacobites By Name’ continued Fomiander’s politically explosive set (well, explosive 300 years ago anyway). This was once a traditional Folk song concerning the Jacobite risings in Scotland between 1688 and 1746. The version sung tonight by Fomiander was a more modern and more generalized anti-war song. When I say ‘more modern’ actually I mean it was written (re-written?) by Robbie Burns so maybe not as old would be a better description. Beautifully sung though, as was the closing Irish number ‘All The Tunes’ which contained the perfect words for evenings end “All the tunes going around in my head. The clock on the wall says its time to go home – so tomorrow we’ll sing them instead”
“Tomorrow” in Folk Club terms is set to be at The Harmonie in Endenich on 16 October. More details to follow soon. No need to bring a blanket or umbrella for the show this time though, and no distractions from anyone running about with shorts on and wielding a hockey stick. Ah, now I understand the title ‘Woodstock’…