Special Guest at this month’s Bonn Folk Club Johannes (Hannes) Epremian from the band Le Clou looks very serious in my opening picture, and so he should – he’s playing The Blues Cajun Style. John Harrison (with Eva on violin) though, as always had the first bite at this evening’s theme of Stormy Weather, and gobbled up the obvious choice with relish – Arlen and Hoehler’s classic of that very name that first saw the light of day with Ethel Waters in the early 1930s. It’s been covered since by everyone – from Bing Crosby to Bob Dylan – and is probably as familiar to the people of this planet as oxygen. A song that you would almost expect new-born babies to recognize.
All good things must come to an end, and so it was that a shower of glitter from the handheld keyboard of Markus Schinkel and a shower of rain from the Heavens marked the final night of the final weekend of this year’s marvellous Stadtgarten Season down by the Alten Zoll in Bonn. The music over the two nights from MT Wizard, Missine+Tripstoic, Dad’s Phonkey, Jin Jim and finally Markus Schinkel Voyager IV was always varied, always high quality and rewarded with an audience that stayed in large numbers throughout, come what may musically.
You had to get there early for a good place on the grass beside the Stadtgarten Stage. Perfect weather for a picnic with free music was on offer on both Friday courtesy of Die Musikstation and Saturday courtesy of PopCamp. Seven bands in two nights, so there really was something for everyone, and if a band didn’t catch your attention then there was always a chance to sunbathe or share a bottle of wine with friends. Bonn Summer Magic was indeed in the air!
Back in the late ’70s, when I was an avid Rock music fan and gig-goer, Britain was rather proud of it’s contribution to the genre. We were competing largely against American bands like Aerosmith, Bon Jovi and mega artists like Springsteen. The real metal-heads though knew there was also another rather excellent source of Metal music – Germany. We really didn’t have a female equivalent to Doro Pesch, Michael Schenker was seemingly both a guitar master and madman but we loved them both – and there was a band, also with a Schenker brother in it – whose name appeared on practically every one of those denim waistcoats festooned with sewn-on patches that I saw. A band called The Scorpions.
Fast forward over forty years and here we are at the closing show of the 2019 Kunstrasen season in Bonn. There are cloth patches for sale at the merchandise table still, to show some things haven’t changed. I still giggle nervously at the thought of these unkempt and motor-oil drenched bikers sitting at home with a needle and thread working on that patched to the hilt jacket. But if the patches haven’t changed, can the Band really be live up to a legendary name from the ’70s at 70? Interested to know the answer? I was too, so let’s pick up a pair of free magenta ear-plugs from the Telekom booth and find out (where were they when I saw Sammy Hagar in 1978?!)
Years ago I saw Wolfgang Niedecken walking through the Schildergasse, a main thoroughfare in Cologne. You could see people looking at him, recognizing him, and walking on. It was rather the way locals regards The Cathedral itself. A quick glance to see that the things that belong in Cologne are still where they should be. All is right with the World.
Tonight some of those locals might be looking around them with unease. The Cathedral is still there, but something is amiss… things are not right with the World in Cologne. It’s the last night of the band’s ‘Live & Deutlich’ (Live & Clear’) Tour for Niedecken’s legendary group BAP, and it’s taking place – in Bonn! The Kunstrasen to be precise.
I’m a firm believer that Brighton might well be the secret cradle of modern UK pop music. Hitchin born James Bay cut his musical teeth in the bars of that very UK seaside town at open-mikes. Now he’s heavily touted as a future Rockstar and warming up audiences for The Stones and Ed Sheeran. His appearance, along with that of this year’s Eurovision winner Duncan Laurence, made a visit to Kunstrasen on Thursday too good to resist.
Albert Hammond smiles as he recalls midway through tonight’s show: “I often have people come up to me and say ‘I enjoyed the show. But why so many cover songs?”. During the current Songbook Tour though Hammond is able to put the record (literally) straight before each song. “Here’s one I wrote that Julio Inglesias had a hit with (‘All the girls I’ve met before’), here’s one I co-wrote for Leo Sayer (‘When I Need You’) One I co-wrote for the Hollies (‘Air That I Breathe’). Roncalli Platz in Cologne was a chance to remind people just how prolific a songwriter he is – and he took his chance well. An evening of familiar songs that, if they didn’t stretch back in time as far as the Cathedral towering behind the stage, still had a long and very successful history.
Just looking at this year’s programme of events for the Rheinaue Parkrestaurant is a mind-boggling affair. From opening concert 8 July to the closing notes from local band Handmade on 30 August there is a concert virtually every evening. Straight away then kudos to Walter Schnabel for organizing such a logistical helter-skelter. That said though, the shows are some 90% cover-bands and 10% old-time Jazz, and I’m not too much a fan of cover-bands. That’s something I first admitted to Rope Schmitz some 10 years ago now. Rope, of course, is the frontman and a founding member of Bonn’s oldest Cover-band (from 1972 in fact) Sunny Skies. Tonight they are playing at the Parkrestaurant Rheinaue, and I, the cover-band hater, am once again present with a camera and a notebook. But WHY? you ask. I’ll do my best to answer that one in the next paragraphs.