Venue: Tonder Festival
To be honest – John Fullbright was the reason for me to buy a Saturday ticket for the Tønder Festival’s 40th anniversary. I knew he is good and I had heard he is amazing live and I was still overwhelmed by the intensity and musicality of his performance. He seems to live in every single note that he plays and seems to breathe every single word that he sings. It’s as if the music uses him as a medium to incarnate. He started with „Satan and St Paul“ and ended with „Forgotten Flowers“ as a second encore. Afterwards people thanked him with standing ovations. Everybody in the room was moved and touched and followed his performance with concentration and devotion, including the staff.
When it started raining heavily outside the cosy tent that kept roughly 500 people, he decided to play us a rain song and played the set’s only cover, „Rain just falls“ – a wonderful song by David Halley that obviously suited the situation perfectly. After half an hour he changed over to the piano and when you think him great on the guitar you are lost for words when he starts playing the piano. Songs like“Highroad“ or „When you’re here“ are the finest pieces of songwriting ever and truly, the world would be poorer without them. Played on the piano those songs unfailingly move you to tears – and, honestly, I wasn’t the only one. When Fullbright was playing the more upbeat and somewhat angry „Gawd above“ his piano and harmonica were like the thunder and the lightning for the song.
John Fullbright from Okema, Oklahoma, is one of the most promising and most exciting artists you will find in the singer-songwriter genre these days. And simply unbelievable – he’s only 26. I wish him all the luck in the world and as much success as he can bear.
As to the other acts I was able to see on this one festival day, The Lone Bellow (US) was certainly my highlight. They had something fresh and new about them as well as a wild and beautiful female mandolin player (Karene Pipkin) that danced along like she was in a heavy metal band. That was wonderful. Also, Zach Williams Brian Elmquist and Kanene Pipkin sang the most beautiful harmonies you can think of. Thiis was being done in a new, daring way, not as dusty or old fashioned as I sometimes perceive it elsewhere. Their songs have an exciting expressiveness about them I thought extraordinary, especially for a folk band. I also thought their stage show absolutely awesome and especially admired lead singer Zach Williams‘ energy, liveliness and also his loveliness in addressing the audience. They were being supported by two excellent musicians on bass (Jason Pipkin) and drums. Drummer Brian Griffin impressed me especially because of his powerful but at the same time amazingly laid back, really cool way to play. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EHrvVd4sq90
Seth Lakeman was in great shape and seemed a bit confused that the audience wasn’t as excited and dancing and everything like he is used to from his audiences in the UK where he headlines whole festivals like the Ely Folk Festival last year. But he did a good job convincing them and had brought his excellent band that helped himhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q_yd1DSBHxk
A completely new discovery for me was a Danish Band called Folkeklubben. They were extraordinary. They mix elements of folk, rock and psychedelic in such an innovative way that it seems hard to think of anything similar – maybe Elbow comes to mind, if anything. They are also a trio and basically rely on two guitars and a bit of drumming and their fantastic unconventional harmonies as well as some keyboard here and there. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DBudp0EmbDM