Live music in the Corona Age…

Laurence Jones live from a rehearsal room in Leamington Spa.  No ticket, no pre/post-gig travelling, beer from the fridge.  This is the future of live music (the near future anyway)

The ban on live music is going to cut deep into the hearts and pockets of musicians.  There are already some great ideas coming out though.  Laurence is using streaming to give his new band some practice – although judging by the show they don’t need it, a very palatable version of Rory’s Bullfrog Blues just went down as I write.  Is there a way that musicians themselves can get people to pay up front for a live stream concert?  Pay via by PayPal to access a Youtube Livestream for example?  This could be the way to go for a while.

Mike Zito flew back in from the UK after cancelling a barely started European Tour that would have brought im to Bonn on Sunday.  He had an automatic 14 day quarantine to look forward to in the USA and immediately decided to make a ‘Quarantine Blues’ CD.  Mike has been blogging putting down his backing tracks and will send them to the band members to put their tracks on seperately.  Cleverly, Mike has set up a site to donate to the disc (and help pay his band and crew) on gofundme

Mike Zito has already raised enough on ‘gofundme’ to finish his disc

Closer to home progressive jazzers Jin Jim have followed the lead of Laurence Jones and will be streaming a concert from the Blue in Green Recording studio in Kessenich on Saturday, March 28, at 8 PM.

Local Record Store Mr Music has also closed its doors for a while (I know, it shouldn’t be so, music is the best medicine and the chemists are open!).  How can you help make sure that the shop which re-opened not so long ago stays open after Corona is gone?  There’s sadly no online store BUT you can order music by emailing info@mrmusic.com.  Bernie will send you an invoice and send out your order on payment.   You can also order gift vouchers via the email address – and maybe help even more by not redeeming them (I’m sure Mr Music will sign them for your wall as a thank you!)

Hopefully, the big stars who have to cancel shows will waive their fees for them, but for Mr and Mrs ‘talented but not playing arenas yet’ that lost income can be critical.  My suggestion here is that If you bought tickets for a show then hold on to them instead of asking for a refund.Well, not just my idea, check out #Aktion TicketBehalten for more information (in German).  You can also show your support by purchasing some music online – preferably via the artists’ own website.  Order a T-shirt while you’re on their website too.  Every little helps.

Finally, if you are planning a Livestream or have a wonderful idea how to get live music to the people in the coming weeks then drop 3songsbonn a line at 3songsbonnATgmx.de and the information will go online here.

Stay Happy, Stay Healthy, and keep enjoying music while you do it!

Vanja Sky -Woman Named Trouble (RUF 1281)

 

Vanja Sky is back, with her second release since joining Thomas Ruf’s label.  Vanja dropped her job in Croatia as a pastry chef when the Blues came calling at age 19 and it was a wise choice. On the evidence here, the new disc will be selling like hot-cakes.  Lets take a peek at the ingredients that went into ‘Woman Named Trouble’

I still blush when I remember, after Vanja Sky’s excellent Blues Caravan appearance in Bonn, asking her if she had seen Rory Gallagher live onstage.  Her answer was diplomatic, but I realised later that she was only two years old when Rory died in in 1995.  A whole quarter-century has passed since Rory’s passing, but the man is as influential as ever as his recent ‘new’ live release and this disc from a young musician, proves.    Crucially though, ‘Woman Named Trouble’ shows the Croatian Bluesrocker is finding her own style, and it creates a glorious mix of Rock charged Blues with a healthy dose of Punk attitude.  There are Funk and Country influences in the melting-pot that produced ‘Woman Named Trouble’ too, which lead me to suspect that the old saying about it not being the destination but the journey that matters has more than a grain of truth.

Photo: Tom Stein

You would be forgiven if you saw Vanja Sky’s two RUF discs in a shop and thought one of them must be filed in the wrong place.  Is that blonde girl with the white dress and big smile on ‘Bad Penny’ really the same spikey black haired punkette on the edgy black white and yellow cover of ‘Woman Named Trouble’?  The answer is both a yes and a no.

 

The love and inspiration of Rory Gallagher’s music have certainly not changed from  that 2018 rendition of ‘Bad Penny’.  The fact that last time around Vanja Sky bravely took on a ‘lesser known’ Gallagher classic in the shape of ‘Bad Penny’ but this time boldly and confidently tackles the iconic live Rory number ‘Shadow Play’ tells you something of the change in attitude and particularly gain in confidence between the two RUF releases though.  That said, there is often a big difference between first and second releases from RUF musicians with the second allowing more artistic control from the person signing onto the label.  Understandable when RUF are stumping up the money for an unknown quantity on the international Blues market.

 

Recorded at Schalltona Studios in Hamburg and (well) produced by ace Brit bassman Roger Inniss, eight of the numbers here are written by Vanja together with guitarist Robert Wendt and they all stand up well against the three covers, Gallagher’s ‘Shadow Play’, Peter Green’s ‘Oh Well’ and Luther Allison’s ‘Life is a Bitch’.  There’s a distinctive ’70’s feel about the rock numbers here: ‘Rock n Rolla Train’, ‘Turn it On’ and ‘Trouble Maker’.  No complaints from me on that front.  Some of the best Rock came out then, and I’m sure she went down a storm supporting Hard Rock veterans UFO not so long ago. There’s even a ’70’s Rock sexist slant on the lyrics that the likes of David Coverdale would appreciate from that period: “I wanna see you naked.  You trouble maker!” she declares (‘Trouble Maker’).  ’70’s attitude pervades then, but  were the Ladies themselves even writing lyrics like that back then?  I’d love to put Vanja in a time-machine and drop a number like ‘Trouble Maker’ on the Hard Rock fans of the day.  It would have scared them sh**less!  I hear echoes at times off Chrissie Hynde too.  Again, no complaints on that score.

A very different Vanja Sky on the Blues Caravan in 2018

What particularly excites me about ‘Woman Named Trouble’ though is the way that punk energy is channelled into other styles.  It’s no real surprise given Thomas Ruf’s involvement in Luther Allison’s career and son Bernard accompanying Vanja (with Mike Zito) on the 2018 Blues Caravan that a Bernard Allison number gets the nod.  Vanja’s ‘Life is a Bitch’ doesn’t venture too far from the original score and benefits from the funky bassline pumped out by Roger Inniss too, but what is different is the sassy, high energy vocal that takes the song into the 21st Century with a bang.

 

Nowhere is the punk energy mix more welcome to my ears than when Vanja  matches her high-energy vocals and guitar with a Country Music overtone.  It’s a combination that I found irresistable many years ago from Elvis Costello with his ‘Almost Blue’ release.  ‘Call Me If You Need Me’ is a breathy Country tinged ballad but the extra urgency in Sky’s vocals and the cutting guitar  promise great things to come on future releases.  Similarly, ‘Let’s get Wild’ edges into Johnny Cash territory guitar-wise but there’s that sharp voice urging us to have a good time.

 

As mentioned already, there is a melting pot of ideas on this disc.  ‘Oh Well’ and ‘Shadow Play’ could easily sound jaded after so many years, but there’s a young attitude on here that kicks off the dust and puts back the excitement that young ears heard many years ago.  Vanja’s vocals have made a quantum leap forward from ‘Bad Penny’ and the same can be said of her playing.  If you’re worried about the guitar keeping up with the voice energy wise don’t be.   Sky can pull out a bluesy metal riff when she wants too – witness the close of ‘Oh Well’.

 

That Man Gallagher seeps through to the soul of so much of the music on here though.  Titles like ‘Voodoo Mama’ and ‘What’s Going On‘ could be on a G Man album.  There’s even Vanja on mandolin to echo Rory’s eye for the instrument as used on ‘Going To My Hometown’.  Which brings me inevitably to Vanja’s choice of ‘Shadowplay’ as a Rory cover on ‘Woman Named Trouble’.  It doesn’t perhaps have the breakneck pace of Rory’s original, which is tribute to the often undervalued contribution to Gallagher’s music of bassman Gerry McAvoy.  You can tell this one really counted in the studio for Vanja though.  It’s pushed her guitar playing and even the agression in her vocal delivery up a further notch.  Taking on a Rory Gallagher classic on only your second disc is brave indeed.  If you’re gonna mess with the kid, do it right.  Vanja Sky sure does it right on ‘Shadow Play’ and indeed  the whole ‘Woman Named Trouble’ disc is a delight.  I’m not sure that she’s quite found her own style yet, but this one hell of a good stop on the journey to it.

Folk Club Bonn March 2020

Following last month’s Anniversary edition extravaganza it was business as usual for Folk Club Bonn in March.  ‘As usual’ meaning trying to fit a lot of keen musicians playing disparate styles of Folk who would happily play all night into a show that ends on the same night it started.  Throw in a guest slot band that called in sick at the last moment (no not THAT virus thankfully) and you can understand if organizer Steve Perry looks like a haunted man as he arrives for another evening of expecting the unexpected at Dotty’s .

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How to support musicians until the live shows can come back…

The City of Bonn has now officially forbidden gatherings of below 1000 people in the areas of Cinema, general Culture (readings/Cabaret etc), Dances, Party ships, Live concerts, theatre and variety.  With regard to musical events, promoters have also begun to announce amendments and official cancellations.  The entire ‘Over The Border’ Festival has now been cancelled, with Manuel Banha hoping to move it to the end of August/September.  Bonn Folk Club has cancelled it’s April meeting and hopes to begin again with Featured Guest David Blair on 1 May.

 

The Harmonie in Bonn was in the somewhat bizarre situation this week of actually transmitting concerts for the Rockpalast Crossroads Festival on Friday and Saturday but without an actual audience.  Somehow the likes of Laura Cox managed to deliver excellent shows with just a handfull of camera men in front of them.  Kudos to the bands involved!

 

Musicians themselves, faced with uncertainty of whether gigs would take place here in Europe, and worried about possible future travel restrictions, have also been heading home.  As British rockers The Brew announced on Facebook:

“KARLSRHUE IS NOW CANCELLED. Just got the call from the promoter. Oh well it was fun while it lasted. Now we try and get home before they close the borders 😫”

 

Mike Zito, who was scheduled to bring his Chuck Berry Tribute show to the Harmonie on 22 March, announced:

Well the time has come……
I asked the good Lord to tell me when it was time to go home and he told me yesterday. After a growing concern for my band members, my family and our dedicated fans, we made the decision to fly back home tomorrow morning.
It’s going to get worse before it gets better and I think we all need to be at home now. We will arrive tomorrow evening and enjoy a 14 day self quarantine.
Time to write songs and be creative.  Please be safe and do what needs to be done right now. It’s all in our best interest. Love each other and turn the music up loud! (At home)”

Unless you are The Rolling  Stones, not being able to tour is a disaster financially for musicians.  You CAN help though.  How?  A post from recent Harmonie visitor Thorbjorn Risager has some suggestions:

“How to be a music fan in the age of Coronavirus

As you know so many musicians are forced to cancel shows and loose out on a big chunk of their income for god knows how long. Artists are hurting, venues and festivals are hurting.

So here’s a guide on how to be a fan of music without leaving your house.

Stream a lot of music
… especially from those artists that were supposed to tour right now. When finding something you’re into, spend a few seconds on saving their releases to your library and adding their songs to your playlists. It doesn’t only make it easier for you to return to the music, it also improves the odds for getting the algorithms to work in favor of those songs.

Share a lot of music
Share music on social media (while tagging artist profiles). Also send streaming links of your discoveries directly to the friends you think will enjoy them too. You can even drop a line to radio stations and podcasts you like and request airplay for the artists you love.

Stay in touch with artists
Follow artists you love on social media and sign up for their newsletters.

Reconsider asking for refunds on cancelled shows. The artists, venues, technicians etc. all need any income they can get to stay afloat.

Discover music via credits
Look up releases you love on Discogs to explore what other records the same producer, drummer, bass player etc. also contributed to. And while you’re on Discogs, also check out who the record label is and explore their roster. It’s likely that you share their taste in music and will discover more music curated by them

Order records and merchandise online.
Wearing a band t-shirt or drinking from a record label mug in public is also a great way to spread the word about the music you love. So why not order a piece of merchandise and a few physical records online (and be patient for their arrival). It doesn’t matter if you order with a shop, a label or directly from the artist. They all need to stay alive in the music industry of tomorrow..”

Keep listening to, and supporting, music.  It really is the best medicine!

 

Rockpalast live with no audience – Laura Cox

There are some music ‘firsts’ that Bonn would gladly do without.  The very first Rockpalast live concert in an empty hall.  Such a shame, as the performance by French Bluesrocker Laura Cox deserved the sold-out audience it would surely have got this evening at Bonn Harmonie.  The Corona Virus though had other plans.  The show must go on though it seems and so it did via livestream.  Hopefully not for too long like this though!