Kunst!Rasen 2023 Taking Shape

Lots of familiar faces, and some new ones, will be taking to the Kunst!Rasen stage next Summer. Local rock favourites BAP and Brings will be sure of a big turn-out of fans, and since Steven Wilson’s solo appearance was a highlight of the 2018 Kunstrasen season, expect the appearance of his band Porcupine Tree to be a highlight in 2023. Another highlight will I’m sure be Mick Hucknall’s Manchester veterans Simply Red who have been a major force in Rock music for going on forty years now, but Cologne’s BAP go back even further. The band’s title for the coming season of ‘The Schliesslich Unendlich (ultimately endless) Tour’ is a welcome sign that frontman Wolfgang Niedecken doesn’t plan to hang up his guitars anytime soon. Expect a good three hours of BAP classics on 12 August.

BAP frontman Wolfgang Niedecken

The well-established Classic Rock Night and Classic Picnic concerts are planned as always, and it’s great to see that last year’s Folk Picnic was a big enough success for it to return for a second year. The Beethoven Orchestra Bonn will be onstage of course for the Classic Picnic, but who will be playing at the Rock and Folk events? Stay tuned for more news as and when it’s announced!

On the road again with Baums Bluesbenders and Greg Copeland

You really couldn’t blame Bill Baum, given the current (dire) situation for live music and musicians, if he stopped playing live and retreated behind the ‘safe’ confines of his Plittersdorferstrasse instrument shop to just sell amplifiers to foolhardy musicians who are still prepared to book tours and step onto a stage after traveling for miles in gas-guzzling tour vans. After all, bands who used to confidently attract big audiences are trying not to see the ever-widening gaps between audience members when the lights go up. Bill and his band Baum’s Bluesbenders are determined not to let the current scene get them down. As Bill’s self-penned 2021 song says – ‘Live is Better‘ and on Sunday night at Bonn Harmonie, with the help of Virginia Bluesman Greg Copeland he proved it in style.

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Layla Zoe – The World Could Change (Cable Car Records)

It’s been nine years since Layla Zoe and Henrik Freischlader last collaborated on an album together, the result being arguably Layla’s best to date ‘The Lily’. The intervening years have seen Layla with her own band deliver the excellent double disc ‘Gemini’ and 2020’s ‘Nowhere left to go’ which, despite its patchwork band born out of Covid regulations at the time, was by no means a disappointment (see my review on this site). Certainly, the current world situation has created plenty of fuel for creative songwriters, which Layla most certainly is. It’s certainly significant that the last release by Layla was not a music CD but a book of poetry. Given that Layla pours her heart out in every song I was disappointed not to find a foreword in said poetry book – events to hang the words on, so to speak. The same goes for this new CD. The intimacy of the lyrics suggests nothing is pure imagination, everything is experience. Why else call a song ‘Jasmine’? and have a lyric “I’ll care for you tonight, little black and white pearl”. The devil, as they say, is in the detail. And in Layla’s lyrics here, there is always so much tantalizing detail.

As always with Cable Car releases, the disc is beautifully presented, with an eye-catching black and white ink illustration by Caroline Sandmayer who also designed Henrik’s own ‘Missing Pieces’ cover. The very first two tracks illustrate the breadth of emotions on the disc overall. Track one, ‘Dark Heart’ is indeed a dark tale of life at its lowest ebb, yet track two, ‘Honey pie’ is the opposite – a “child of love and light” who, it transpires, plays xylophone. Again there’s that little hint of detail that this is perhaps from real life, and therein lies for me the strength of Layla’s lyricism. How deep do you want to go as listener?

Tracks like ‘The world could change’, ‘Man behind the curtain’ and ‘We’re all the same’ possibly have roots in the turmoil of War that we currently live in – if we are fortunate, only diffusely – through news bulletins. Elsewhere though there is tenderness as “Baby bird, I’m sorry I couldn’t help you fly” and fierceness as in “Life ain’t worth a shit, if we can’t look fear in the eyes”. Finally, throughout the disc, hope is always there. “Every villain, every house of cards, crumbles to the ground” (Truth song), “Secretly we light a candle, whose tiny flame must never waver” (The world could change), because, quite simply, “In the end we’re all the same. We fight to smile and survive. To live and love and be” Am I suggesting this is a very complex disc? Well it is. And then again it isn’t. Good versus Evil. There’s that “tiny flame to disable the evil plans” and the choice to “Stand up in your courage. You don’t have to lose”. If all else fails, there is the haunting final song/prayer ‘Shine brightly‘ that is for me the discs high-point. With all the world’s troubles we can rise up; physically as individuals, and spiritually too- from birth to death “To shine brightly as we transcend. To shine brightly even in our end”

So, I have written a great deal already. Really a powerhouse performance lyrically and emotionally by Layla. Poetry put to music. But this is a music CD and not a poetry book. Of course, the music side is where Henrik Freischlader very much comes in on this disc – as the player of every instrument bar the keyboards (Henrik’s band keyboard player Moritz Führop keeps things ‘in house’ here i.e. Cable Car records). Ordinarily, The talents of Mr Freischlader would be more than enough to embellish any vocalist’s solo disc. Layla though here has set the emotional bar high, and, whereas Henrik’s guitar playing is always tasteful and doesn’t dominate with its Peter Green/Gary Moore Bluesrock tone, I wish he’d kicked a bit more a*s as he does on his own new release for example on ‘Hall of shame‘. Freischlader understandably lets Zoe do the real shining on here, and that’s maybe a conscious decision. The rhythms and beats he provides are all watertight, no complaints technically. No great guitar solos and no bad ones. When one musician plays pretty much everything a ‘live take’ goes out the window, and I rather miss that edginess. Will we ever get a chance to hear Layla take this on the road with her own band? I hope so. The World can change – believe in the Firegirl and her words from the heart.

The World Could Change is released on 11 November

Over The Border Christmas Special

I’m not usually one to promote Christmas events in November, but I recommend whatever your plans are over Christmas to include this concert in them. Local Ambassadors with Worldclass music.

So, Sunday 18 December, Harmonie Bonn, Yo Ho Ho!

Folk Club October – Ain’t it Good!

Bonn Folk Club edition #128 had the optimistic motto ‘Ain’t it good to be alive!’ and in these rather dark days when the news seems brimful of spiraling prices, war, and human oppression, we can certainly do with all the good thoughts that can be mustered. It is certainly safe to say that if you are going to find your glass half full anywhere these days it will be one filled with Kölsch and served at Dotty’s in Dottendorf to a background of excellent music with just as excellent company.

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Vanja Sky and Morgane Ji down at the Crossroads

Down at the Crossroads. In musical mythology, it’s where musicians go to sell their souls to play the Blues. In Bonn it’s where music fans go to hear new bands every year as a part of the Rockpalast Festival. It was popular to get a four day ticket and, to quote Forrest Gump and his famous box of chocolates comparison, you never know what you’ll find. Tonight you will find Croatian Blues Rocker Vanja Sky and Reunion born World musician Morgane Ji treading the boards.

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Change at Rockpalast Crossroads – Vanja Sky replaces Hamburg Blues Band

Bonn rock fans will know that it’s that time of year again they love in the Harmonie. Rockpalast is back again with its Crossroads Festival at the Harmonie. Friday (28 Oct) was due to see popular legends The Hamburg Blues Band appear, but Covid within the Band means that a replacement had to be found for the evening and it’s certainly one I heartily recommend checking out – Vanja Sky will be taking the stage by storm for sure, with a little help from HBB guitarist Krissy Matthews. Vanja impressed 3songs in 2018 with her enthusiasm as part of the RUF Blues Caravan, something learned from her musical hero Rory Gallagher no doubt.

Her motto is: ‘Don’t forget to rock n roll!’ so expect a lively musical night!
As of writing, tickets were still available HERE