Compared to many private venues in Berlin, Rickenbackers Music Inn is generously spacious enough to accommodate a sizeable crowd in its many nooks and cranies while still maintaining a very intimate atmosphere. Yet when you have a crowd that swelled to the size the legendary Pete Wyoming Bender Band drew on Sunday night, 31 March? It was packed wall to wall. Every table was reserved, standing room only.
From my perspective in one front corner generously suggested to me by Pete, I waited for the gig to begin while observing some typically Teutonic behavior in a modern sense: an older German couple glanced at their recently delivered plus-sized hamburgers with mild dismay before beginning to delicately go at them with a knife and fork. People, you just pick them up and take a big ol’ bite.
Next, there was a ten-minute discussion between several people on how a young woman might deal with a stool with one leg shorter than the other. They finally folded up coasters so it could sit evenly, but I couldn’t help but think, what did it matter? They were not at Berlin’s fabulous symphony orchestra hall, so what did they expect? They were there for the music, or should have been. I was, for that and a couple of beers.
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I suppose it’s my background in psychology, which can include so many other disciplines and nuances, that I watched the faces of the performers as a clue to how they feel about the music and bandmates, not while they were actively playing of course, but when they were listening to the other members. Also, it’s curious how their instrument of primary choice reflects what seems to somehow reflect them
selves, especially the ones I’ve met before or knew personally.
In this case, there was Paul Schwingenschlögl on trumpet: friendly and upbeat but with a surprising sultriness. Zam Johnson on drums, and Pete “Wyoming” Bender himself, whom I found on short acquaintance suggestive of great depth and passion, with an infinite love for music and people in every word and gesture. There was the lead guitarist Joey Albrecht, as well as the bass guitarist whose persona matched his instrument, and the special guest, saxophonist Detriot “Detroit” Gary Wiggins, who closed his eyes, smiling, patient and enjoying himself while waiting for his solos.
There was no impatience or indifference on the faces of the players whether they were active or not, and several times, if you were paying attention, you could catch the spark of communication between them with no words being spoken: inside humor or a heartfelt nod of “great job, bro, I’m feeling you” evidenced by a sudden smile, a quick glance or a special, personal crescendo because they utterly knew
their mates were backing their rise. This might not seem like something special, but when you consider that a number of these musicians regularly play with other people: different gigs, different places, even different types of music? It is spectacular when they can come back again and achieve this level of harmony and meaning.
In the end, that harmony can be attributed to Pete Wyoming Bender, who can pull these talented men together and direct them in song after song that moved their audience. The Incredible Pete Wyoming Bender Band completely satisfies lovers of the genre, not just delivering songs one might know, but infusing every single one: every word, every cord and key with profound knowledge, appreciation and respect.