The Blues Brothers had it right “Can’t play the Blues in an air-conditioned room” they proclaimed. Does the same hold for a a sunny Summer day? Local hero Bill Baum put it to the test on Sunday. Blue skies with white fluffy clouds and sunshine threatening to turn white skin intoblack toast. Over in the corner there’s a table with champaigne bottles cooling in an ice bucket. On The Bundeskunsthalle Roof this morning the Blues never had it so good it seems. Over to you Baum’s Bluesbenders…
Bill Baum, should you live in Bonn and play music, needs no introduction. His shop in Plittersdoerferstrasse is a musical oasis and iif you boughta guitar there he was likely the first person you heard play it – because Bill Baum loves to play guitar. This very morning he’s loving it in front of a crowd so large that, despite there being no garden show on the roof this year, there is still a queue waiting to come up the stairs to Bonn’s highest open air venue.
St Louis Jimmy Oden’s ‘Going down slow’ with the classic refrain “I’ve had my fun, if I don’t get well no more” greets me as I reach the top of the steps. By the time I’ve got to the stage the band is declaring “I’ll change my style” to a rootsy Blues beat, but you know of course they won’t, and for that you are very glad indeed because these guys are the best Blues Band in Bonn.
They’re on to a winner for me by having the excellent Uwe Placke blowing a storm on harp. “Some men spend all their lives learning to be Doctors, to be dentists, to be politicians even. But this man to my right has spent his life concentrating on one tiny little thing he can hold in one hand” says Bill Baum with a grin. Placke knows how to blow it too. He can evoke the emotion of Little Walter on a track like ‘Talk to me Baby’ or storm off into a Blues Rock direction that would have Muddy Walters himself nodding his grease haired head to in approval as on ‘Can’t be satisfied’
Over on guitars (and home-made ‘Wald Zither’) “The Bad Boy of Bad Godesberg” as Placke described Bill Baum earlier, not only hits a fine blues groove but takes it walkabout with him during ‘Everythings gonna be alright’ – much to the surprise of an unspecting young lady sitting on the grass and staring avidly at her cellphone suddenly to find the man of the hour playing beside her and several hundred people looking over her shoulder.
No Bluesbenders set would be complete without ‘Caldonia’ of course and despite there being three lengthy sets it seems as if the clocks have got it wrong. Can it really be 2.30 pm already? Probably just as well for many of the fit but not so young people who have been dancing almost non-stop throughout the sets. Who says the Blues have to be sad? Memphis Slim famously concluded that ‘Everyday I have the Blues’ and tonight Mr Baum and Co have shown a day of Blues can also leave a smile on faces. A thumping backbeat courtesy of Rainer Wilkes on bass and Francis Holzapfel, ringing guitar solos and wailing bluesharp melodies. Maybe you can’t play the Blues in an air-conditioned room, but you can play it and enjoy it too on a balmy Summer Sunday. Sadly there are very few such days a year and even fewer with great Blues like this to enjoy live – ah, thinking like that, now I have the Blues indeed!