|This Article appeared in the Kingfisher Times & Free Press on August 20, 2000|
|German fans go wild over City Moon's style of country music|
| by Diuane Musick Times-Free Press
|The huge crowd surged forward, pressing them against a
chain-link fence 'til there was no room to back up any further. They were
trapped with no escape route!
But Kingfisher's Virgil Bonham and members of his band, City Moon, were enjoying every minute of it after their performance at the 13th annual Country Music Festival in Schleusingen, Germany on July 22.
The band members signed autographs for the enthusiastic fans for what seemed like hours after performing for a crowd of 8,000 people. It was quite a rush for the Oklahoma-based band, but it wasn't the only highlight of their first European tour.
Other memorable events included an eight-hour unscheduled "educational" trip to the Germany countryside and getting acquainted with some of the most open people they had ever met.
The experience was all, and more, that Bonham and his band, City Moon, could have hoped for as they cranked out their popular brand of hot country music.
City Moon was invited early this summer to perform at the 13th annual Schleusingen Country Music Festival.
The group departed July 17 after their promotional manager, Steve Cannon, arranged for their performance at what is billed as the largest country music festival in Germany.
" They specifically wanted a band from Oklahoma for this festival because to them, Oklahoma is synonymous with country music. They heard our CD, saw the video on our web site and asked us to come," said Bonham, lead guitarist and vocalist for the group.
After landing in Frankfurt, the band members, their promotional manager, and their sound technician took off in a rented van on the Autobahn, in search of the town of Schleusingen. They got off the high-speed highway in order to visit an ancient castle which could be seen in the distance, and promptly got lost.
When they finally stopped to ask for directions at a petrol station, the German-speaking attendant pointed to a sign which read "Umleitung."
"We followed that sign for over eight hours." said Bonham. "We drove down every road where we saw that word posted, but we just kept getting more and more lost. Later after we hooked up with our interpreter she told us that word meant 'detour', but we sure got to see a lot of rural Germany!"
The band finally arrived in the town of Schleusingen, where they were to stay for the length of their visit. Festival promoters paid for all lodging, meals, and transportation. City Moon also received a performance fee, which was paid in advance of the festival.
"Being paid in advance of the performance is something that just doesn't happen in the United States," said Cory Wyatt, drummer and vocalist for the band. "They were just so happy to have us there - so open and trusting."
That trust was exhibited even further when the band members found out their interpreter and guide was to be a l5-year old girl named Franziska Graf.
"I have daughters, and I guarantee you that I wouldn't let them spend time with seven men in that situation," said Bonham, father of two daughters, Shilah, 15, and Britney, ll, and son Hunter, 5. "We treated Franziska like a daughter or a little sister, but they didn't know what kind of guys we would be. They just trusted us."
The concert took place at a large outdoor area near a lake, and lasted for three days. People camped in tents and cooked over open fires.
"They love country music in Europe, so we were very well-received. I think we were hugged and kissed by every man, woman, and child there," laughed Wyatt. "I think we exceeded their expectations."
Bonham told of one man who had just bought a very expensive leather jacket and he wanted the band members to autograph it using permanent markers.
"The jacket still had the price tags on it! We couldn't believe he wanted us to write on that thing."
Another man wanted to trade clothes with Bonham and even offered to buy his shirt for l00 U.S. dollars, but Bonham declined.
"My wife, Rhonda, bought me that shirt for Father's Day and I knew better than to sell it."
Before City Moon headed back home, Franziska showed them some of the local attractions. They got to try an 'ice-cannon', which is a bobsled on wheels, and they toured a castle, but the most moving experience was a visit to a German concentration camp.
"Franziska had never been there before and she had a hard time with it. She finally had to go outside and just cry. We tried to comfort her, but we all ended up in tears, too," said Bonham.
The band met Franziska's family, and they and her parents became great friends, so much so that next year the young German girl may come to the U.S. to live with the Bonhams and go to school here in Kingfisher.
"Franziska and our daughter, Shilah, have already been on the phone with each other. They seem to have really hit it off," said Bonham. "This is such a fine family that we would be happy to have their daughter come stay with us. It would be a great experience for her, and for our kids, too."
City Moon has performed with some of Nashville's hottest acts, such as Clint Black, Tanya Tucker, Asleep At the Wheel, Clay Walker and many others. They will be performing at the State Fair of Oklahoma in September.