“Don’t miss this month’s Bonn Folk Club” I brazenly declared a week in advance, and people, you did not let me down. This was an evening up there with the best of times. An audience so big that Bob on the door had to collect extra chairs from the bar, and a standing ovation for guest star David Lübke. If you weren’t at Dotty’s in Dottendorf – or went home because you had nowhere to sit – here is what you missed…
Well, the first ‘star’ of the evening that you missed was actually Natalie. This young lady certainly deserved a standing ovation herself. Natalie is a waitress at Dotty’s, or to be exact ‘the’ waitress at Dotty’s on the evening after two others had called in sick. If I had surveyed that crowded room of hungry Folk-clubbers wanting a beer and a meal alone at 7 pm I too would have called in sick. Brave Natalie though announced her ‘battle plan’ for what we needed to do to get fed and watered and her regular cries of ‘Bratwurst mit Pommes?’ raised heads and hands all evening. Thank you Natalie. Not all angels have wings – some have trays!
The evening’s theme was ‘Friendship’ and John Harrison’s opening musical salvo made me think how much friendship is also able to transcend time itself. His friend ‘Flan’ was tragically found dead by hanging – an open verdict remains to this day regarding the circumstances of his death – but John keeps his friend alive in our thoughts by singing the song from time to time and it is always a moving moment. ‘Angel in Disguise’ is also moving as it was composed by John’s friend Jonathan Ole Wales Rogers. John also did another song by that gentleman called ‘Geoffrey’ about a friend who had a false eye that was regularly ‘found’ by teachers at his school. Geoffrey’s surname was Ball so the question would often be raised in class “Is this your eye Ball?”. All in all one of John’s best ever themed sets – and worst ever jokes.
Mario Dompke gave us three self-compositions for his set on the theme of friendship, each dealing with a distinct facet of the theme. With the first notion of friendship he followed John Harrison’s lead, as ‘Hey mien Deem’ again showed that true friendship doesn’t end when the life of the friend does. With his second number ‘Augenblick der Liebe’ he pointedly reminded us all that our partner in life is also our friend (best friend even?) And finally, to find the ‘friend’ who knows you best of all? – you need only to look into the mirror (‘Blick in den Spiegel’). Sometimes that particular ‘friend’ can also be your worst enemy of course. All three variations of friendship have in common that they will be honest with you even when it hurts. All three also have in common that Mario played and sung them with a sovereignty, and a confidence in finger-picking that only comes with time and talent. As always, a pleasure to hear you play Mario.
With some heavy emotional vibes going down then in the opening salvos of both John and Mario a lighter touch was needed, and what better to facilitate an upturn in mood than a nod to the upcoming Karneval Season? Enter Trööt & Flitsch (aka Erhard Schwartz and Hansjorg Schall). Has anyone managed to ever write a sad song utilizing an oompah blasting tuba? Imagine the most depressing song that comes to your mind and add a tuba… I tried it by imagining Terry Jacks’ ‘Seasons in the Sun’ with tuba arrangement but you can pick your own ‘weepy’. Add a tuba. Does it still sound sad? I rest my case. All of which has nothing to do with tonight’s set by Erhard and Hansjorg which was a jolly Karneval sing-along romp from start to finish (or oomp to pah?) ‘Heidewitzka Herr Kapitän’ is a classic Karneval song by famous Kölsche Jung Willy Millowitsch and ‘Et is wie et es’ also belongs to the Karneval canon being part of the famous ‘Kölsche Grundgesetz’ (look that up if you are new to the area). More interesting was an attempt to give Carole King’s classic ‘You’ve got a friend’ the Karneval oompah treatment. I’m not sure that Erhard and Hansjörg entirely succeeded with that one – but you have to give them a medal for trying (a Karneval medal of course).
John Hay is consistently in search of a musical challenge too it seems and the result this evening was his interpretation of Steve Hackett’s ‘Horizons’. Actually, taking music from a Rock Band member (Genesis) and turning it into a classical piece is not as insane as it appears. On closer inspection, Research has suggested to me that Hackett’s instrumental is based heavily on Bach’s ‘Prelude from Suite Nr. 1 für Cello’. Having said that however, I still think John was insane for taking it on. He really is looking to up the bar with every performance and the rapt attention given him by such a large audience is testament that his dedication is paying off.
Credit due to John Hay for his fingerpicking skills then. The same goes for the next guest of the evening Thomas Meier who gets a lot of volume from his guitar – which doesn’t lend itself to many mistakes when you play single notes as he often does. I particularly liked the way he attacked Snow Patrol’s ‘Chasing Cars’ which has a complex riff that runs counter to the actual singing Well played Thomas – also a nice mix of numbers with Coldplay’s ‘Fix You’ and Pink Floyd’s ‘Wish You Were Here’. Thomas clearly likes to turn Pop/Rock into acoustic folk and I like it very much.
JerMexiCana are Ben, Dany, Martin, Miguel, Thomas & Walid and they present, for the most part, their own songs in German, Spanish and English. Theirs is a brand of Folk-Pop whih fits in musically very well too at Dotty’s – six instruments being enough for a strong, punchy sound even without amplifiers. Tonight’s set featured a song from each of those three languages I mentioned: ‘All of it’ – A love story (or was it a dream?) involving an Irish girl. ‘Y asi Veras – Un Nuevo tiempo’ – a relationship tale of love and hope. ‘Der Hafen’ – A song fitting tonight’s theme as it deals with the tricky balance in relationships between closeness and free room. All self compositions and presented in an unpretentious way that had me liking the guys straight away. They also invited John Harrison to join in on ‘The Snows they melt the soonest’ which he himself presented recently. It’s a Folk classic thathas seen a lot of cover versions over the years (Most famously by Dick Gaughan and most oddly by Sting). I suspect that the songs popularity lays partly at least in it’s lilting medieval tune rather than its lyrics. One astute critic I read suggested it “might just be Male Chauvinist Pig Song of the Year.” There I’ll let it be. So let’s just enjoy that tune eh?
I had high hopes for the evening’s main guest and I was not disappointed. A quick dig into YouTube prior to Friday’s concert revealed a quirky mixture where the music of 26 year old David Lübke is concerned. Despite in reality being a relative youngster, Lübke could be a minstrel from the Middle Ages or a folk singer in late fifties America. His Folk Music odyssey began at school through a teacher and David was so smitten by the music that he went in search of its roots, traveling through Ireland, via France, and spending time in the USA. Not surprising then that there are strong elements of Bob Dylan in his style and, also more than an inkling of Irish traditional music at times.
David did the traditional two sets offered to Folk Club main guest, and in that time went from very enjoyable to unmissable His first set opener, ‘Der Verlorene Sohn’ lent very much musically to Dylan and especially ‘Times they are a’ changing’ rhythmically but with a nice little melodic riff to give it a style of its own. Pretty good work considering it was on an album David brought out six years ago when the youngster was, well, an even younger youngster. It might not have fitted the friendship theme, but David’s song asking ‘Wenn geht der Krieg zu Ende?’ (When will the War be over?) was certainly topical.
David’s new (second) album ‘Von Der Liebe’ is a real gem for lovers of the traditional folk style born out of Bob Dylan and Pete Seeger but with a curiously endearing modern/young feel. David’s next song of the evening ‘Wie weit zum Horizont‘ is a perfect example. It has a feeling of being around for fifty years or more and in the songbooks of numerous ‘folkies’ but it says on the CD that all texts and music are D. Lübbke and not P. Seeger etc.
“Ich will rennen, über all die Grenzen Springen. Ich will ankommen, nicht nur träumen von den dingen. Wie weit ist es zum Horizont? Und ist da noch platz für uns?
Ich will stärker sein als ich’s bis heute bin. Will lauter schreien, für Menschen, Recht und Sinn. Wie weit ist es zum Horizont? Und ist da noch platz für uns?”
David’s second set of the evening was, amazingly, an even stronger one. The first highlight was definitely the jaunty banjo-driven ‘Wenn ich wüsste was der Morgen bringt’, another song that sounds like an old-time folk classic but comes straight from David’s pen:
“Wenn ich wüsste wie viele Jahre ich Leb. Wenn ich wüsste wie viele Jahre ich leb. Wenn ich wüsste wie alt ich werde, könnte ich leben bis ich sterbe. Wenn ich wüsste wie viele Jahre ich leb!” .
This was counter-pointed by the gentle melody of ‘Apfelbaum’ on which Mario joined him in perfect harmony. The switch in tempo, style and subject showed the breadth of David Lübke’s musical talent.
To sum up: There are a good few young blues players keeping the old traditional style alive into the 21st Century. In comparison, I don’t know how many young Folk singers are out there doing the same for the traditional Folk singer/songwriter genre in the German language, but I doubt there are many as good as David Lübke and cannot imagine there are any better.
His next show was in Gummersbach on Saturday and David said he wished he could take us all with him – only he doesn’t have a car. He would, he said with a twinkle in his eye, be thumbing a lift on the motorway. So down to earth and keen as he seems – I wouldn’t want to bet that was no joke.