Lots of Folk on the Kunstrasen

Saturday’s first ever Folk!Picknick on the Kunst!Rasen was a great success. A mid-show downpour even proved how much people were enjoying the event as they were prepared to wait patiently for over half an hour or so, patiently and with good humour sheltering under trees and empty booths. All returned as soon as the music could flow again to enjoy a varied line-up of musicians, culminating in an appearance by 2014 German X-Factor winners Mrs Greenbird. it was particularly wonderful to see so many new faces getting to enjoy Folk music possibly for the first but, judging by their smiling faces and applause, not for the last time.

With no entrance fee it was impossible to know just how many people were spread out on the grass with their picnic blankets over the course of the day. Despite the weather uncertainties and limitations for advertising the event, I tried to do a tally mid-afternoon and reckoned on a good 400 people being there. By evening’s end I am pretty sure they will all be telling friends and neighbours how much they enjoyed it – and that hopefully will secure a repeat Folk!Picknick next year. But let’s not talk about 2023 just yet. Their was so much to enjoy about 2022…

Ric Paris & Eva Henneken of CAYU

Rather as Lou Reed has secured his place as debut act on the big Kunstrasen stage, CAYU will go down historically as the first act to have played a Kunstrasen Folk Picnic event (albeit on a smaller stage ‘hewn’ out of the VIP tribune – the big stage is still a step too far financially for this event, use of the sound system itself would blow the FolkPicknick budget!). The intimacy actually suits Folk Music though. If you caught one of the mini folk concerts here last year you will have a good idea of the set-up. I am pleased to mention that one of the acts from those concerts last year, Roxanne de Bastion, will actually be on that big stage soon supporting Katie Melua, so attendees of Folk Picnic might be catching early shows by stars in the making.

CAYU appear regularly on this website due to their being a popular part of Bonn Folk Club and also by the fact that they play at so many different local events each year. Grown out of a band at the United Nations they have become a recognizable and enjoyable musical tour-de-force. despite all the shows attended I never tire of the band because they are always coming up with new material and, no doubt influenced by their UN roots, with worldwide inspiration. This time around their imaginative set included probably Ukraine’s most famous folk song ‘Ty zh mene pidmanula (You Tricked Me’) with it’s jaunty fiddle solos. A nod to the power of women came in Eva’s own composition ‘Lyonness’, a nod to poet Emily Dickinson in ‘Bones of Poets’ and a nod to Irish traditional with the classic ‘Drowsy Maggie’. Phew! again, a set that really underlines the band’s motto of “Celebrating Diversity” So the afternoon was already off to a flyer even as people continued to flow into the Kunstrasen arena with blankets and picnic baskets in hand.

Next on was Daniel Bongart, who showed today that he is an emerging talent both in front of and behind the scenes of Bonn’s music community. Already a popular performer alone and as singer with Winterfeld, also a part of Bonn Folk Club’s organizing committee, and a staunch supporter of Street Musicians in Bonn, Daniel has worked hard behind the scenes as a promoter here. Last year he brought a small raft of concerts to Kunstrasen as an appetizer for what was possible (including the aforementioned show by Roxanne de Bastion). This year he was co-organizer, Master of Ceremonies, and last, but not least, one of today’s performers.

Daniel Bongart

It’s one of the pleasures of being involved in Bonn Folk Club for a while now that I get the chance to see emerging musicians build up their talent and confidence. They go from playing a couple of nervously delivered songs to making CD’s and, in Daniel’s case, organizing events for others too. Despite having so many ‘hats’ in the local music business now, Daniel Bongart wears his performer’s hat in an ever-increasingly confident manner. The songs were always intimate and finely written. Today, with the addition of electric guitar and bass, he really ‘came of age’ as a performer I thought. Maybe being able to ‘just?’ get up and sing/play was actually a relief from the organizing? In any event, Daniel delivered his material with great confidence. In particular, ‘Where are You’ is a number that has been in his repertoire a long time live and never sounded better than here at Kunstrasen. His tribute to Richard de Bastion was a moving one and ‘You Told Me Not To Wait For You’ gets more energetic and ‘rockier’ every time I hear it.

Daniel Bongart’s audience enjoy the sun

Newer material Like ‘Dreaming Tree’ (with excellent bass from Michael Semmler) and the moving ‘Her Silhouette (Autumn Feeling)’ is evidence that Daniel is maturing musically and lyrically along with his other involvements in Bonn’s musical scene. An excellent set Daniel, Michael and Jens! Now, just as the afternoon was about to take on a rockier aspect with Nik Nova from Cologne, the skies opened up. It threatened to be the end of this year’s Folk Picnic (and by implication possibly the end of Folk Picnics at Kunstrasen per se). Rain soaked blankets were rolled up, cheese and wine were packed away, and people fled. Thankfully only to the safety of nearby trees.

Rain briefly stopped play at Kunstrasen – time for coffee…

Outside of a rather damp patch of grass, they returned to a show that after a further half-hour seemed like nothing had ever happened (for all of you that stayed, a big THANK YOU!) They were rewarded by a solid set from Nik Nova who, kudos to him, due to time restrictions following the downpour, was not able to soundcheck, and now found himself a bit hedged in by the stage roofing that had been hastily erected during the downpour.

Nik Nova and Band with the hastily erected ‘sun’ tent overhead

I recognized ‘All of my Heroes are Dead’ from Nik’s set at the Harmonie Folk Club appearance. I loved his cheek in presenting a song called ‘Canadian Skies’, asking how many of the audience had been there, counting hands, and then admitting he was not one of them. I still don’t know if he was kidding. ‘Ghosts of Puget Sound’ sounded more suited to Tuesday’s Rock Night, Maybe not Folk, but welcome as a wake-up after the rain-enforced break.

Matthew Robb – singer, poet or both?

Organizer Carmen Emmert introduced Matthew Robb as a surprise new talent for the audience. If you have followed this website for a while then Matthew will be no surprise to you at all. I have been singing his praises since I first saw his video of ‘Dead Men Have No Dreams’ from 2017. Intentional or otherwise, it was a dynamic masterstroke to have the sombrely presented music of Matthew Robb follow the afternoon’s rockiest set. Matthew is a master of understatement in stage presentation. His lean body and gaunt face create the perfect embodiment of a traveling minstrel hobo. Underneath that straw hat though is a powerful songwriter.

A smiling Matthew Robb!

Actually, the question arises: Is Matthew a musician singing poetry or a poet set to music? A great example is on the title song from his latest release ‘War Without Witness’ where Robb declares “The greatest danger to man is man” and concludes (the UK? Germany?) to be “A Nation of sheep and a government of wolves” which is pretty cutting and articulate commentary from a ‘traveling hobo’. If you saw him for the first time yesterday and bought one of his excellent CD’s then take a look at the lyric sheets inside. Even the seemingly simplest of his songs like the love song to his wife (playing today on Cajon) ‘I Miss You Baby’ has depths stretching more into poetry than song lyric: “I miss you babe. I miss your rare and beautiful face. How you dare to bring boundless joy, to all that you embrace”

Really a set to treasure and so well received that Matthew’s generally dour face was caught smiling on frequent occasions. A shout-out to ‘the band’ too. Was great meeting you all. Great people and great music. Hope to see you again soon at Bonn Folk Club with the next CD.

Top of tonight’s bill were Mrs Greenbird. They deserved applause before even beginning their set because they had graciously agreed to shorten it by a half hour so that everyone could get the slots they deserved after the rain-enforced pause had made a mockery of the scheduled times.

Sarah and Steffen – Mrs Greenbird

I know you are wondering because I did too – the band name comes from the couple (singer Sarah Nücken und Guitarist Steffen Brückner) finding a dying parakeet when they moved into a new house.
The duo had a very successful career as they went from successfully competing in the German version of ‘X-Factor’ in 2012 to gold records, before deciding to step down from the race for stardom and do things their own way. That ‘own way’ brought them to Kunstrasen, and had the audience quickly loving their brand of friendly American-style pop-folk. Sarah’s distinctive high voice and Steffen’s distinctively low key friendly banter were the perfect way to chill-out to the end of an excellent afternoon’s music.

With Sting due on the big stage the next day there was no chance of having the playing time extended sadly, but the truncated set was a pleasure. I loved ‘I wanna live in 1965‘ and the Stone’s cover ‘Dead Flowers’. The latter was an indication of the breadth of Mrs Greenbird’s repertoire as was an audience request for their version of ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’ from the Ramones (a number they covered well on X-Factor) but Brückner apologized that with the Ukraine War he felt it wasn’t the time for such a song. A tasteful decision that was a reminder Mrs Greenbird are doing things their way.

To make sure the audience was warmed up for the walk home there was the chance to sing along and raise arms to ‘You and I Are A Universe’. Steffen Brückner was spot on when he smilingly remarked that it looked like an open-air yoga session.

Big thanks to Kunstrasen Verein for putting this event on. Carmen Emmert was optimistic in closing that there could be a further Folk Picnic next year. Let’s hope so, and if you were there, please spread the word and make it happen.


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