On the face of it Bonn and Chicago don’t have too much in common. I am glad to say though that they do share a taste in both the playing and hearing of good raw electric Blues. The best proof local proof being Bill Baum and his Bluesbenders, who once again proved at the Trink Pavillion in Bad Godesberg that you don’t need to be living on the streets of Chicago to play mean electric Blues. You just need to feel it – and this quartet proves, time and again, that they do just that.
Looking around at the gradually arriving picnickers as I wait for the band to start on this fine and sunny June evening I’m wondering how I can find something new to photograph, or new to say about, Bill Baum and his bluesmen. The answer to the first part was found immediately to my right. An enthusiastic looking group of dancers from Rheinbach Classics. The motto of that excellent yearly old-timer’s festival is ‘Music, motors and petticoats’. There are no motors in the park today (snack van excepted) but Bill had the music, and the classics had a petticoated dancer who at least made for a new look to old favourites photographically.
Bill and Co probably wouldn’t appreciate being called old-timers, but I think they would be happy with a reputation for being excellent players of blues classics. It certainly applies to their musical style. Truth to tell, I’m not in pursuit of something new musically tonight anyway. I’ve had the privilege to get to know Mr Bill Baum a little over the years, and doing something new isn’t what he does best (although he did pen a witty song about Donald Trump not so long ago – “Hey Herr President. Was ist wenn die Welt brennt?”). Some years ago I researched an article about Blues Music in Germany and Bill was a fountain of knowledge on the subject. Rather like an ultra-protective gardener, he cares deeply about the roots, for without them nothing good will grow in future. The youngsters coming up with apps instead of guitars need to know where the heart of the music is and listening to Bill is an excellent, and also enjoyable, way of learning. Last year on this very stage he had local guitar maestro Jan Laacks standing in on bass. proof that the message is being carried on to future generations.
In short. Nothing new here by the Trink Pavillion, just good R’n’B to dance to, with a beer in one hand and a hot dog in the other. Baum and his Bluesbenders are now into their 26th year as a band. All the tried, trusted, and loved Bluesbender classics are on offer this evening. Bill’s version of the Louis Jordan classic ‘Caldonia’ is as popular an hommage to BB King as ever. Uwe Placke points out once more that we should live for the moment, especially when it involves a great blues harmonica riff as on ‘Had my fun if I don’t get well no more’. Bill hits a guitar solo and promptly heads out for the occasional walkabout – at one point I wonder if he’s going to dance with the couple from Rheinbach Classics and play the guitar simultaneously. Business as usual Bluesbenders style.
It’s all good music and good fun. A great way to chill out mid-week. There’s a skeletal finger-pointing hand on Bill’s guitar that hints at a rockier and more intensive performer. Indeed, as the evening draws to a close the solos seem to get grittier, or as gritty as is possible outdoors in Bonn. For the REAL Baums Bluesbenders experience though you really need to visit the Harmonie or a similar sweaty indoor club/pub atmosphere. For those enjoying a beer in the bright sunshine, be aware you’re trading bluesy atmosphere for a suntan. My advice – grab the suntan with the music now, and head back for the down-home sweaty blues later in the year too. In between there’s a show coming up with the band at Rheinbach Classics (21 July) – petticoat optional, good music guaranteed.
Finally, some song and dance…