Judging by the smiling faces and picnic blankets for the closing mini Blues Festival the reintroduction of open-air music outside the Bad Godesberg Kurpark pavilion was a master-stroke from organizer Sabine Köhne-Kayser.
Certainly Baum’s Bluesbenders and earlier The Elder Statesmen Band made for a friendly atmosphere and offered high-quality music on a warm and sunny evening on the eve of official Summertime to finish ‘Musik Im Park’ 2018 in fine style.
I’m always amazed when I meet music lovers and musicians in Bonn and they tell me they have never heard of Baum’s Bluesbenders, or they’ve visited his shop but never realised how good either he or his band were. Someone who has played as the backing band for a legend like the late Louisiana Red, someone who will be sharing an evening at the Harmonie with Richie Arndt, someone who can call on one of Germany’s best guitarists (Jan Laacks) to step in for the evening on bass… In short, Bill Baum doesn’t just know how to sell guitars – he knows how to play them too!
The sky this evening is as blue as the music itself as local band The Elder Statesmen take to the stage. Again the microcosm that is local musicians here in Bonn was noticeable with Folk Club regular Uwe Gillert keeping rhythm guitar whilst his son Maximillian took on lead duties with slicked-back hair, sunglasses and suit that suggested sartorial as well as musical influences from Joe Bonamassa. Singer (and harp/trombonist) Björn Lindental sang and guided us through an enjoyable set of songs with Winfried Klümpen and Hermann Joisten on drums and bass respectively ensuring that fingers were tapped to the beat.
Despite the name the present incarnation of Elder Statesmen is fairly new, certainly a solid band right now and one that will ‘mature’ to get even better as they get older.
So, time for that man again… The Bad Boy from Bad Godesberg as Uwe Placke introduces Bill Baum. I must have seen Baum’s Bluesbenders a dozen times by now and they never fail to deliver in either enthusiasm or ability. That they are as big a fans of the music as the audience is I can vouch for. Researching an article on German Blues a few years ago Bill was the Man who provided the background. After the recent band show supporting Big Daddy Wilson I was asked: “Can you take our picture with Big Daddy?”. Like I said – Bill & Co are just like you and me – until they start playing music and then their ability leaves me light-years behind.
‘Jerry Jumps In‘ is a perfect opener for the band to get warmed up and especially for Uwe Placke to warm up his harps. From then on it’s ‘High-Energy Roots and Blues’ as promised on the band’s website. So high is the energy in fact that Bill Baum takes several walkabouts with guitar in hand amongst the picnic baskets. I half expect him to take a short cut by paddling through the shallow pool that separates the audience from what would be an excellent dance-floor in front of the stage. It stays though for the most part empty as dancers do their own thing dotted about amongst the trees and lawn.
Perhaps the lack of dancers is down to the heat. It can’t be down to the lack of a beat. Francis Holzapfel on drums is, despite his name, described on the website as “The best export from Ireland” and whilst Guinness drinkers might disagree with that he’s certainly a solid sticks-man. No frills, from the KISS School of playing (and no, I don’t mean Ace Frehley, Gene Simmons and Co) Keeping it simple but keeping it spot-on.
The set is classic Bluesbenders with classics like ‘Caldonia’, and ‘I Had My Fun’ (great harp here) to ear and foot warmers like ‘Sweet Rocking Mama’ and songs about life on the road to gigs like ‘Going Down The Highway’, and ‘On The Road Again’. Actually a very short road for the present gig in what is virtually the band’s back-garden.
Hand on heart. I was disappointed when Jan Laacks unzipped the case of his guitar and took out a bass. Not that Jan is a bad bass-man, or that all bass-men are bad, but to my money, he’s the best six-string guitarist in Germany. Just take a listen to his solos on ‘Gemini Heart’ with Layla Zoe. Pick any YouTube video, they’re all great! The next day he was due in France and then continuing work on Layla’s forthcoming double disc. A lot of classic blues sounds coming our way is how he described the music being laid down. Can’t wait!
Uwe Placke even gets to strap on a guitar as the sun goes down and the band chill out to close this short but very successful first ‘Musik Im Park’ Season. Will there be a future BAP or Brings among the new bands who will play here in future? who can tell? The possibility though will be improved if, as is planned, next year’s ‘Musik Im Park’ is extended to eight shows. Maybe extending into July will have real Summer madness – dancing in the stage front splash pool? Never say never where Bonn and its music loving fans and musicians are concerned!