Can you make a living working in Bonn in the music business? Wednesday’s guest at the Trinkpavilion in Bad Godesberg is proof that you can. But it’s only because he runs a successful music shop in Plittersdorferstrasse and sadly not because playing top quality live music is something the majority of dedicated musicians can earn a livable wage on . What matters most though is that, at a time when live music in the open air surrounded by trees and birds and bats is being hotly debated in the Courtroom, Baums Bluesbenders showed what music can do for the most forgotten species when it comes to making life bearable in Bonn – human beings. It seems to have got lost in the legal arguments that in order to make a small number of creatures possibly happy, an awful lot of other creatures (humans) are unhappy. No wonder they have and need The Blues! Enter Mr Baum and his team of musical doctors the Bluesbenders. No appointment is necessary – just turn up at the ‘surgery’- Dr Baum will see you now…
So, how long have you felt tired and lethargic? lacking in confidence for your future and the future of your fellow citizens? It all started with Covid two years ago? Well doctor Uwe Placke understands your dilemma. ‘It’s important to make the most of all opportunities that you have to be happy’ he says indirectly, by way of the Blues classic ‘I’ve had my fun. If I don’t get well no more’. It’s an advance therapy first recommended by Dr Samuel John ‘Lightning’ Hopkins. Placke lets rip on Blues harp in a manner inspired by the Chicago Blues Harp greats like Little Walter. He plays it the only way you can play it that counts – with passion. He is still having his fun for sure!
Bill Baum in comparison is the stage opposite of Placke. He has a lightness about his approach. Like a medicine man selling high percentage liqor guaranteed to cure all ills from the back of a wagon. Bill sells the benefits of music calmly and collectively. It was Bill Baum who once clued me in on the Blues history of Germany. He knows his stuff too, hopping stylistically between the three Kings: Freddie, Albert and particularly BB with the ease of a teacher not wanting to bog you down in names and details but keen to make you understand why Blues music mattered then and still matters now.
My current reading is a book on the life and times of Muddy Waters by Robert Gordon ‘I Can’t Be Satisfied’ Gordon makes the point that Muddy’s early shows were on the Stovell Cotton plantation where he picked cotton all week from ‘Can (see) to Can’t (see anymore). He played Blues music to black audiences. They didn’t want to wallow in depression. They simply wanted to dance, laugh and forget about their troubles. Maybe the troubles of the people in front of Baum’s Bluesbenders are very different troubles this evening, but these are people who also want to laugh, forget those worries, and dance – as was shown by the regular flurry of feet strutting their stuff on the makeshift ‘dance-floor’ before the Pavillion steps.
If you’ve seen Baum’s Bluesbenders before live then you will know what went down. No great surprises apart from the absence of Rainer Wilke on bass through illness. A replacement was found at short notice in the more than capable hands of a fellow Bad Godesbergian in Jan Laacks. You might well recognize that name from the best of Canadian Blues firegirl Layla Zoe’s releases, especially the wonderful ‘Gemini’ disc or her superb live disc from Vervier. I have to say that, as pleased as I was to see Jan playing, I was equally disappointed that he was holding a precision bass and not playing lead guitar. Bill Baum is himself no slouch when it comes to Blues guitar licks of course, but for my money, Jan is amongst the best anywhere. Currently more involved in producing than playing – a tragedy for Rock Blues in my opinion.
Jan Laacks gels in seamlessly to keep the bands beat alongside Irish drummer Francis Holzapfel (‘the Country’s best export since overpriced Irish butter’, as Bill Baum smilingly puts it). The two men form a firm fundament from which Baum and Plackert operate out front. Bill doesn’t go on one of his usual walks around the audience this evening I notice, but otherwise it’s business as usual. If you saw the band ten years ago you will pretty much know the members and the music. The most popular numbers are still, as they were then, the uptempo rockers ‘Caledonia’ and ‘Everyday I Have The Blues’. Outside of Bill’s hairline not much has changed over the years – and good so. To quote one of the band’s perennial favourites ‘Everything Gonna Be Alright’, and as long as Baum’s Bluesbenders are up playing their Blues on a stage you just know that it really will be.