The Po’ Ramblin’ Boys are bringing their hard driving brand of old school bluegrass to western Europe, and have promised to send us updates along the way. Here’s their second installment, from mandolinist C.J. Lewandowski, covering their trip to Ulm and Burkenreid for a festival performance.
The first night of sleep was heaven! I believe we all slept like a rock. Waking up at 8:00 a.m. to the smell of fresh brewed coffee was pleasant. Everyone cleaned up and met on The Bluegrass Porch for salami, cheese, handmade pretzels, cream cheese, hand pressed cider by Brigit, and fresh jam. Light conversation about the evening and some time for all the boys to pass around Dieter’s guitars (1953 D-18, 1971 Gibson J-45, and a 1950 Gibson L-48) was our morning before leaving the Stoll home. From Dieter and Brigit’s, we travelled to Burkenreid, Germany.
Our ride from Kusterdingen to Birkenreid was very short and sweet. Stopping in Ulm, we all ate some local food, visited a tobacco shop for some fine cigars and pipes, and saw the Ulmer Munster. The Ulmer Munster is a Catholic Church with the foundation being set in 1377, with construction finishing in 1890. It features a gorgeous Gothic design and the world’s tallest steeple at 530 feet tall! A short 2 hour journey brought us to the hotel, where we checked in and were surprised by the President of the Country and Western Friends Koetz, Peter Wroblewski, nicknamed PeeWee.
The Country and Western Friends is a group of die hard country and bluegrass music fans that has hosted festivals and concerts all over the place since 1982. They also organize Country Music Tours that take 40-50 per trip to the U.S. for two weeks, and the guided tours take them to many historical music places. In 2016, they are planning a trip from Memphis to Raliegh with stops in Graceland, Jerusalem Ridge, Nashville, and Bristol (plus more) in between.
This particular concert took place at Skulture Park in a converted greenhouse. When they said would play in a greenhouse, I swore we would melt in the first set. Let me tell ya, it was a greenhouse that was decorated with flags from all over the world, with Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, and North Carolina being displayed prominantly. We ventured the sculpture, ate some fine Italian pizza, and hit the stage.
We headlined the festival, which roughly seated 200 people, along with the Daniel Coates Trio. Daniel is a native Pennsylvanian, who lives most of each year in Germany playing to his many fans. He sure put on a great show. Many ’90s country hits filled his repetiore, which complimented the club’s theme well.
We felt like movie stars on the greenhouse stage. An overfilled, standing room only crowd, with cameras flashing every song. It felt great to play a festival where everyone was the edge of their seat for every song. They hung on to every banjo lick Luke played. As a token, Peter presented us all with a instrument towel with the club logo embroidered on it, in which we proudly displayed on our shoulders or back pockets as we played the encore number. Dan Coates and his band joined us on the Grand Finale and we ended the evening with EVERYONE singing along to Will The Circle Be Unbroken. We ended the night Jimmy Martin style… “Is everybody happy?!”
We had a great little talk with PeeWee, and headed to the hotel for a good night’s rest. We now have our first German bluegrass festival under our belts. Many thanks to The Friends of Country and Western Koetz, Peter Wroblewski, and Paolo Dettwiler for the special evening. The many people that came really showed us love and we really do appreciate it dearly.
God Bless the Friends of Country and Western Koetz for giving true country music fans a chance to live their dreams, and give Europeans the opportunity to travel and explore all the landmarks of American music. We take advantage of the historic places that made our music, sometimes, and we should learn a little bit from the folks that live, eat, and breathe it overseas. They really do love country and bluegrass with their hearts and souls.
Next stop, Belgium.