In my ideal world, there would be a live music stage in each City Centre every weekend in the Summer for people to enjoy. As it is though we only have such a Saturday once a year, and this year’s Stadtmusik Day was the usual joyous collection of assorted music, by a varied assortment of musicians, for an equally varied assortment of listeners. For some reason known only to Bonn Council, the four stages in Bonn are so wide apart these days that the time when one could wander from one to another is sadly over (unless said council has a rethink?!). With Steve Crawford/Sabrina Palm, Astatine & Friends, and The Lazarev Project Outside the Stadthalle in Bad Godesberg seemed a good choice, and so it proved. Apologies to the Fountain Cave Basement Orchestra for missing your set – other commitments were to blame.
Ralf Reifenberg said he was joking when he offered to add mulled wine to the drinks on offer at his stand. There were times though when it did look decidedly Christmassy above our heads as the clouds built up a heavy grey that threatened to block out the last rays of Summer sunshine. Those clouds (and local weather apps) added some urgency to the afternoon’s proceedings – but thankfully, with the exception of a short shower and some gusty summer breezes, it was the music that flowed rather than the rain.
Steve Crawford and Sabrina Palm are a talented duo that I used to see a lot of some years back at Bonn Folk Club. Steve from Aberdeen got busy with his Ballad of Crows project though and then joined Le Clou so it was high time, and good, to hear him on a stage again doing a basic Folk set. As a duo with Sabrina Palm, there is a nicely mixed set of Folk Songs and Fiddle music, and the mix was made all the more enjoyable by the addition of Alex Froitzheim on tin flute and an assortment of pipe instruments that he can play infinitely better than I can name. A lovely set to kick off the afternoon at the ‘Konzertmuschel’.
Which is a good time to answer the questions you may be asking – the what? where? If you look around the side of Bad Godesberg Stadthalle you will see a tattered-looking corner of concrete in the shape of a shell. There was a time, or so local residents have told me, that small orchestras and the like would play here to appreciative listeners in the small square opposite. An outdoor alternative to the big Stadthalle stage inside. It really is a nice little alcove and I can’t help thinking it would not cost Bonn Council much to remove the graffiti, re-plaster the walls and give them a lick of paint. I’m sure that many a band could even play there without amplification since the acoustics seem very good. As it was, I found myself looking nervously at the walls and ceiling wondering if the musical vibration was going to bring lumps of plaster down on unsuspecting heads.
The next ‘heads’ to step under the flaking plaster were very familiar ones. Astatine and JinJim guitarist Johann May. The former has an enigmatic smile that no cloud would ever dream of raining on, and the latter a confident and commanding guitar style that said clouds would be too busy listening to the melodies of, to think of raining on.
There was a dodgy moment of showers though – possibly having a song in the set called ‘Sunny’ (Bobby Hebb’s classic) was Hubris on Astatine’s part? The audience took shelter under the Stadthalle alcove though and within minutes could enjoy the whole square again and even dance a little to Duke Ellington’s ‘It Don’t Mean a Thing’ and smooch a little to ‘Moon River’. Interesting that Astatine added lyrics to Django Reinhardt’s ‘Swing 39’ and gave Johann a good workout on guitar. An enjoyable set, that like the previous one by Steve and Sabrina, deserved a bigger audience. Maybe a poster or two in the nearby shopping centre would have helped? Or maybe Bonn doesn’t want to advertise that it is making any noise, no matter how musical, in its streets for fear of complaints?
Lazarev Project Group were the last band of the day that I was able to catch, and they were rather more difficult to ignore decibel-wise. I had the feeling that on Friday at Alten Zoll, as a part of YASSMO’s tightly rhythmic band, Local guitarist Igor Lazarev didn’t have the opportunity to really stretch out. If you were lucky enough to have been outside the Stadthalle though you will know how inventive and technically good Lazarev is on his pale blue Fender Strat copy. His Hendrix t-shirt was a nod to the power trio bands of old like Cream and Taste and it was clear that the trio were enjoying playing as much as we were enjoying hearing them groove. Mike Haarman on drums and Christian Kussmann provided that Groove fundament and Kussmann’s bass playing was really a highlight of the set for me.
I have it on good authority that the final band Fountain Cave Basement Orchestra was also well worth a visit to ‘the Musikmuschel’ and apologies to them for not being able to catch their set. The clouds seemed to have enjoyed themselves too since they forgot to rain (and are making up for it today as I write from a pouring Bad Godesberg the day after!) Hopefully, the next time mulled wine will be on the menu will be Christmas, and there will be many a sunny evening of music in the open air before then.