Kunstrasen VIP Lounge – Part 2

Back to Kunstrasen’s ‘Klein aber Fein’ Vsecond Stage.  Roxanne de Bastion and Daniel Bongart were on the bill on a day when all the threat of rain during Sunday’s  VIP lounge concert arrived with a vengeance from early afternoon on Tuesday evening.  An hour before the music was due to start there were regular peals of thunder from the Rheinaue direction.  A wise man would have stayed home.  I set out – with a raincoat and strong umbrella.  Well, there was an English lady waiting for me.  Waiting for an audience of any sort I suspect as the lightning lit up the early evening sky.

The lady in question was Roxanne de Bastion.  Bonn Folk Club fans may well remember her father Richard as a popular visitor.  Richard sadly passed away, but his daughter is very much a chip off the family musical block. That said, she very much goes her own way style-wise, and refreshingly so with a bright mix of easy-going charm and Indie-pop.

Daniel Bongart also knows a thing or two about easy-going charm, and he needed it to reassure the figures huddled as closely as Corona rules would allow around the umbrella stands facing the VIP Lounge stage.  A word about that stage, and indeed the lounge it sits on.  What with the rules concerning indoor events and number of people allowed inside at any one time – not to mention the cost of staging a concert season for 2000 fans per show in an arena for 9000 – things have been scaled down from previous years.  The main economy that troubles me tonight is that there’s no roof.   If the threatened skies do open, listeners and performers are going to get very wet indeed.  We huddle under our umbrellas and Daniel huddles under the ones on the stage, and we all say a quick prayer for sunshine.

It seems to be working as Daniel, joined by Wingfield bassist Michael Semmler delivers an excellent set of original compositions.  For me it’s particularly enjoyable to hear Daniel’s music plugged in.  There are some rockier numbers that lose their edge at Bonn Folk Club with its no amplifier policy.  Other songs – the quieter, reflective ones, benefit more from the no-amp set-up.  His song remembering faces from the past ”Where are you’ certainly fits the quieter retrospective side of the coin, as does the newer ‘Dreaming Tree’.  Both emotional well-written affairs.  ‘Angel’ with its strident chorus works better played loud.  The addition of Michael Semmler on bass rather than violin backing as normal by Carola Heyden also gave the music a slight change of texture.

It’s interesting when you hear the early incarnations of a song to see how it evolves – certainly hearing how Daniel’s thoughtful lyrics change and grow within the constantly evolving structure of the music that surrounds them is a pleasure.  The songs were always good – the presentation just keeps getting better and better.  I’m very much looking forward to the next batch of songs from Daniel – experience up to now tells me we are in for a treat.

A very short break (the skies are getting blacker by the minute) and we are in for a treat right here and right now.

I missed Roxanne de Bastion’s House Party performance last year in Bonn.  I was especially sorry about that when I heard her material on the internet.  A review on the Web compares her to Dusty Springfield of all people.  Despite living between Berlin and London Roxanne is not so well known here in Europe.  In the UK it’s a different matter. Appearances in England have included Glastonbury’s famed acoustic Stage and The Cambridge Folk Festival.  She is also a lady of many ‘hats’: Sold-out shows in London include a sold-out book launch at The Lexington for her tour diary ‘Tales from the Rails’. Roxanne is also at the forefront of a new wave of artists breaking with tradition to forge independent careers. As such, she was invited to join the FAC (Featured Artist Coalition), where she sits on a Board of Directors that includes Imogen Heap, Radiohead’s Ed O’Brien, Katy Melua and Dave Rowntree of Blur. She has also created FM2U, a music conference specifically from and for musicians, which aims to empower & educate as well as create a strong community of artist-entrepreneurs.  Phew!  it’s a wonder she has time to tour with all that going on.

This is in fact Roxanne’s first show in a long time, and clearly, she isn’t going to let an impending thunderstorm spoil her plans.  We needed good songs well sung to take our minds off of the weather – and we got them in musical spades.  My favourites in an evening where every song could lay claim to being the song of the evening were ‘Molecules’ a new one that was pretty damn sprightly on the night with just acoustic guitar but will knock you out of your socks when you hear the rocked up electric guitar version on YouTube.  Certainly, my favourite lyric of the night came from this one as it raises the question “Are we looking for God in the right places?” with the lyric: “You can shout at molecules, and see them react.  That might be God.  They might have mislabeled that!…”

As with Daniel earlier, Roxanne de Bastion knows how to turn inner reflection into wonderful songs.  The sombre ‘Heavy Lifting’ showed she can also be effective behind an electric piano.  There was even the punk-tinged ‘Red and White Bloodcells’ that managed an energetic audience sing-along.  We were dangerously close by this time to singing in the rain – but did we care?, we just moved our chairs a bit closer under the umbrellas and chanted ‘Red’ and ‘White’ at all the right moments in the chorus.

There was just time before the rains came for Daniel and Michael to join Roxanne for a boisterous ‘Ticket to Ride’ and just enough more time to applaud a wonderful evenings music before the skies finally opened.  Maybe John Lennon thought we were taking his song too unseriously?  Don’t mess with the Beatles!

Sheltering under a nearby Birch tree I had time to reflect on something Roxanne had said during her set.  She had introduced the song ‘I Remember Everything’, inspired by the real ‘Rainman’ Kim Peek.  In admiring Peek’s resilience to critics but also his close relationship to his father, Roxanne recalled her favourite quote from Peek: “My Dad and I share a shadow”.  I am sure Richard was, and would now be increasingly proud of, his daughter finding not only her own successful style but also finding, as he clearly did, immense enjoyment in creating and performing music and songs.  Maybe that bigger stage at the other end of the field will be hers one day?  I saw Alanis Morissette there a couple of years ago…

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