Thursday, July 11, 2013

in the church of bobtown

Another Bobtown concert, though this one was on the east end of Long Island -- about 85 miles away in Southold.

It was supposed to be one of those free outdoor concerts -- part of the town's summer series of shows, so it seemed like good venue for the whole family. The kids could wabnder around and alleviate their boredom in a way that wouldn't be possible at a conventional indoor venue. And I was looking forward to enjoying the music with my wife. After the last show, when I eagerly played the Bobtown CDs I had just purchased, she was impressed by the quality and originality of the music.

But we got a late start -- the HelpXer staying with us wanted to come, but we had to meet him at the subway. His train was delayed, so he didn't get in the car until almost 6:00. So we set off, hoping to get to a concert set to start at 7:00 while the GPS estimated a trip of over an hour and a half, and we knew we'd run into heavy rush hour traffic.

So we're driving there, and I'm going nutsoid with frustration -- after I missed their last performance in the area (due to my own brainfart), I was annoyed at the prospect of missing this. Especially knowing that it would be months before my next chance to see them. Ihen we're getting closer. It looks like we'll get there at around 7:30. So I'm thinking maybe if they started late I'll get to see the end of the show. And damn. The road is closed. Detour. Fuck! This is going to add another ten minutes to the trip.

We get to the park, and it's deserted. Empty. But there's a small sign. Due to the potential for rain, they've moved the concert to the First Presbyterian Church of Southold (a few blocks away), and it's at 7:30. Whew! The long drive has not been in vain. We get to the church, and decide that the kids at this venue would likely be disastrous. So I go in alone. My wife and kids (and the HelpXer) go the beach. The show's already underway, but it doesn't look like it's winding down. Maybe I missed a few songs, but there's still more show to see.

First (or is it too late for "first"  given that this is like the sixth paragraph?) a word about the venue and the audience. Bobtown were clearly not doing a hometown show. I wasn't the only one there familiar with them, but it appeared that most of the people hadn't heard of them. As I was going into the church, a family walking up asked if this was where the concert was. I said "I hope so. It's Bobtown, right?" They seemed puzzled, and said that it's Southold, and that they didn't know where Bobtown is. I shrugged and went in.

Between songs I heard lots of comments along the lines of "how interesting" and "they have such great harmonies." It was an older crowd, and I gathered that it was mostly locals who worked the weekly concert series into their schedule, without knowing who was performing.But they went over very well. People were into it -- including the old guy in the row behind me who was keeping the beat on the back of my seat. Not that I'm complaining about that -- I had too good a time for something small like that to bother me.

The venue, an old church (it was established in like 1640), actually seemed somewhat appropriate for the band (notwithstanding the few songs that have a sacrilegious tone). Gospel is a strong influence on the Bobtown sound, so the music didn't seem out of place. And the stagey area (I don't know what you call it) served to frame them very nicely.

Of course, the music was very similar to what I saw the first time I saw them play (back in April), but this time I had heard the songs before, so I could follow along (even if I couldn't sing along). There were too many highlights to list them all, but a few follow:

Mama's Got the Backbeat: Jen McDearman has an incredible set of pipes. This is one song I didn't really like when I first heard it -- after learning that Alan Lee Backer was in this band, I found them on the web to give a listen and this was the first song I tried out. It has grown on me since then, though I will say it's better in concert than on CD.

Magilla Lee: This is my favorite from their two albums. It's just such a catchy melody. For some reason I think of Carlene Carter when I hear it. Not sure why.

Jesus Walking on the Water: This is a fun little number that sounds like something Mojo Nixon would have recorded. After running through this, they offered a free CD to whoever could identify the band that did that originally. Without thinking I called out "The Violent Femmes" in what was sort of a cross between puzzlement and triumph. It seemed like they kind of heard me say something, but didn't know what I said. I then realized that the reason I knew it was a Violent Femmes song was that they did the same thing back in April. Since it doesn't seem cricket to get a free album that way (using the knowledge of the answer that I gained by hearing the same question last time), I clammed up. They announced that it was the Violent Femmes and moved on. I'll note that the Violent Femmes will get one extra sale on Amazon because I heard Bobtown's version of their song.

Rattle Them Bones: Or some similar title. This is sort of a playful variant of Jim Carroll's "People Who Died." Fred Stesney's Fred Schneider-like vocals are perfect for this. It's too fast for me to pick up on all the lyrics. I was happy to hear that this is likely to be on their next album.

And that is one difference between this show and the one back in April. They specifically talked about working on songs for the next album. I asked Katherine Etzel afterwards if they are looking for material. Sadly, they're not. I understand even if I'm disappointed. It wasn't really professional of me to ask her that, but, well, nothing ventured nothing gained. I did suggest that "Poor Ellen Smith" would be a good song for them to cover. But looking on Youtube, I can't find any renditions as good as the Milner Brothers' on their album Haven't Lost a Thing (which, coincidentally, has my composition, "Music No One Else Can Hear." And now we have come full circle. Katherine confirmed that they'll be back on Kickstarter, so I'll be able to pledge and get them to record one of my songs. Presumably I can then use that recording as a demo to shop the song around.

The band was selling CDs, but they decided to let the customers pay what they felt was appropriate. I already have copies of both discs, but I did buy another copy of each, which I plan to give to my friend, Tall Judy. She plays in a contra-dance band, and I think she'll like these albums.

No comments:

Post a Comment