This year sees the 20th Anniversary of the Rockpalast Crossroads Festival in Bonn. To celebrate it’s longer than ever this year, starting on Tuesday and rocking clean through to Saturday, so there should be something for every rock music fan in there. Tuesday’s openers Bywater Call were definitely a good reason for me to head down to the Harmonie, and I also had a niggling desire just to see how anyone could call themselves Eddie 9V. It turned out he was more than just a fun name.
Twenty years into the Festival then, and presenter Rembert Stiewe barely needed to give his ‘traditional’ pre-filming address to the audience. “You are welcome to take pictures, but…” “No flash!” shouted the audience. Familiar faces, holding the video cameras, familiar faces with still cameras (good to see Thomas Van der Heiden with his Nikon again, and even familiar faces onstage as Bywater Call’s Meghan and Dave were previously here as a duo supporting Robert Jon & The Wreck. That’s actually why I’m here this evening – to see the whole band which has been kicking up a storm of popularity on a grueling cross-Europe tour that ends tonight on a Rockpalast high.
As a duo, Meghan and Dave were rootsy and inspiring. Add the full seven-piece Bywater Call band and the Canadians really are an emerging force to be reckoned with. As early as the ballsy opener ‘Sweet Marie’ it was clear that Meghan Parnell has one of the best female blues rock vocals out there. With Layla Zoe also coming from Canada, it must be something in the water over there. Parnell shares stage centre with guitarist Dave Barnee who plays some cool slide guitar in the course of an excellent set – most of which is original material. Tellingly, even when they do move into cover territory they manage to own the song – even when it’s as classic as The Band standard ‘The Weight’. Always the sign of an excellent band.
There are lots of dynamics in the music for sure, and the interplay, especially when Barnee spars it out with Stephen Dyte’s trumpet and Julian Nalli’s sax is really a feast for the ears. Give a listen to the fast and funky ‘As If’ for the proof. There’s something Derek Trucksy about the way Barnee plays – both visually and musically – and that has to be the biggest compliment I could give him. If Bywater Call had a lot of fans in the front rows when the set started, by the sets end they had fans right to the back of the Harmonie.
I was actually expecting to see Eddie 9 Volt play first, given Bywater Call already have a solid following here. But not for the first time at a Crossroads concert, I was wrong about the order. Is there even a support band/main Act mentality about the planning? That’s a question to throw at the organizers. Whatever, psychologically there must be that feeling for the musicians. So I’m watching the stage being reset for Mr 9 Volt and a guy in flared jeans with big glasses and greased back hair appears looking like he might have stepped out of a 70’s advert for Old Spice or Brylcreem. I’m ñow expecting some jumping jive meets Bill Haley Rock n Roll. Then again, I remember that Eddie was down to play the RUF Blues Caravan a couple of years ago but for some reason that I forget now, Will Jacobs took his place.
To cut a long story short, Thomas Ruf knows quality young blues players and Eddie 9V (more formally, named Brooks Mason from Georgia) needs very little time to win the entire audience over with his quirky retro presence. As quickly as the video cameras track him going in one direction they lose him coming back the other way. He’s a live-wire onstage and it’s clear that here is really where he and his band are at their best. I loved the keyboards of Chad Mason who looked, with his trilby hat and ready smile as if he would be at home on a Carnaby Street market stall. A touch of Chas & Dave. Again though, like Eddie himself, there was an excellent musician behind the cocky exuberance. Full marks to an excellent rhythm section too in Lane Kelly on bass and particularly a dynamite performance on drums from David Green.
Highlights? The storylined ‘Little Black Flies’ for sure. The gospel tinge of ‘Beg Borrow & Steal’ and a throbbing Junior Parkers ‘Driving Wheel’ that saw 9V hammer the heck out of his battered Fender Telecaster. Finally, he’s rounding off the evening with Blind Faith’s ‘Can’t find my way home’ and it’s clear that the opening line of his own closer ‘Miss James‘ says it all about Eddie’s live music philosophy:
“Alright baby, let’s do it. I want to make it fun!”
And he did just that!
There is still lots to come from the 2023 Rockpalast Crossroads this year:
25 Oct – Green Lung/Dead City Ruins
26 Oct – Sweet Electric/Hamburg Blues Band
27 Oct – John Diva & Rockets of Love/Diva Heaven/Iedereen
28 Oct – Ryan Sheridan/Jake Isaac
Details on all concerts HERE