The Bobs Exposed!

Intro and Backstage With The Band
By Aimee Spanier

Hi. Welcome. First time at a Bobs show? Don't know what to expect? A little nervous, perhaps? Don't worry. It's my first time too. We'll face it together. Read on and maybe this will help ease your mind:

First, some introductions are in order. The Bobs are: Matthew Bob (vocals) and Richard Bob (also vocals), two founding members of the group. Then there's Joe Bob (vocals as well), who's been with the band for about six years. Finally (but only for the structural purposes of this paragraph) Lori (yes, she's vocals too), who joined six months ago.

What's this? Everyone's a singer? That's not a band, that's some sort of...of...what's the word, a capella thing?

Yup. Sure is. But the Bobs' version of the a capella thing is not your familiar Sweet Honey in the Rock-Bobby McFerrin-barbershop quartet-doo-wop type of a capella thing. OK, it is. It's all those things. It's...well, who better than a Bob himself to explain what a newbie should expect at a performance? Says Matthew:

"One should expect unusual musical...um...wait. I've almost got it...yeah. Unusual musical styles with a twist of humor to the lyrics. It's all vocals, no instruments, but we still do rock and roll and almost any style of song..."

Hm. Maybe this will help: Upon entering the venue during sound check, The Great American Music Hall in San Francisco, I was greeted by your standard sound check drum beat (Boom. Ba-boom. Boom-boom-ba-boom). As I passed by the sound guy at his sound board at the back of the hall, he yelled "Try giving me a clap!" A clap?

The "drummer" was Joe sitting alone on stage in a straight-backed chair on a large square pad that was apparently lined with some sort of audio-sensors. The drum beat was created by Joe's feet, which, when he banged on said pad, made a sound much like a bass drum. When he clapped on the sound guy's cue, it cracked, sounding eerily like a high-hat. Woah.

That's what the Bobs are like. Nothing scary, just creating bizarre, hilarious and impeccable music using only the tools they had in their pockets at birth--their voices, their hands, their chests and legs and feet. That's what they've been doing for 15 years, ever since Matthew and former-Bob Gunner placed an ad in the East Bay Express looking for a "bass singer for a new wave a capella group." Richard answered--he was the only one, shockingly enough--and from there they've built a repertoire, and a following, that is impressively large and diverse, and wildly clever.

So crank up those speakers and pay careful attention to the show--trust me, you don't want to miss anything. It's sometimes shocking but nothing to be nervous about.

Oh, and if you're already a Bobs fan, well, then you're doubtless already prepared. Enjoy!

It's Not Funny! A Post-Post-Modern Deconstruction of the True Meaning of the Bobs' Subtext
By Aimee Spanier

The Bobs long to be taken seriously. Most of their songs, they explain, are romantic or message-laden, but no one seems to think of them as anything other than funny.

After their show, I'm beginning to understand their dilemma. Clad in satin and polyester, they took the stage, launching into their first number. The crowd was thrilled, laughing and clapping as the quartet sang a love song (as many of them are) about a gentleman called "Apeman" stealing his dearest away to a lonely tropical island and giving her something called "Banana Love". Vulgar, perhaps, but a touching representation of a universal desire.

This song, according to Richard, was a preview of a theme show they're putting together, "Singing through the ages". "Banana Love" was a piece from the "prehistoric, preharmonic, prelinguistic" period.

In the course of creating this show, Richard continued, they realized there were too many styles to cover in one set, so they decided to combine some periods. "The next song," he said, "will take care of the 16th century and 1968." With that came a glorious madrigal-style version of the Doors' "Light my Fire". It's certainly not a lighthearted song, and madrigals are, unquestionably, some of the more serious musical genres, but that didn't stop the the audience from getting hysterical.

Working through their pain, the continued with "Looking for a Late Model Love," sung by Lori with the boys on backup, which traces the anguished search by a woman for the perfect car, during which she lusts after leather seats and swoons at the smell of new upholstery. One shouldn't belittle the angst of a woman whose auto-erotic dreams (sorry) aren't being fulfilled, but this insensitive crowd did.

Towards the end of the first set, the band took a traditional turn and did their version of a Louis Jordan song, "Nobody Here But Us Chickens". Again, Lori took the lead in this soulful song, with Joe and Matthew flapping their arms (in an apparent attempt to personify the feeling of being fenced in, trapped) like nervous hens. The quest to be taken seriously continuted with the performance of "Mr. Duality." "Mr. Duality / That's me / And That's me toooooo..." Here, too, the deeply troubling subject of personal psychology was mocked by the crowd. This problem of being perceived as mere clowns is clearly not their fault. The set closer, "Spontaneous Human Combustion", about the tragedy of inexplicably exploding persons, was laughed at as if it were a funny affliction, like large ears or a third nipple. They just can't get a break...

The second set was no better. It started with a bang with "Is It Something That I Said", another hard look at a common tragedy: A postal worker walks in on his manager/lover with her hand in another carrier's mailbag. He snaps, and riddles the mailroom with bullets, finally fatally shooting his lover, who asks plaintively, "is it something that I said?" Funny? Of course not! But the audience was roaring.

In what was obviously meant to be a moving commentary about the struggles between warring world superpowers, Joe sang the touching "Particle Man". Such deeply affecting lines as "Triangle Man / Hates Particle Man / They had a fight / Triangle wins" were brushed of as comedy, instead of inspiring silent contemplation about the state of our world.

Maybe it's the song names that are misleading ("Cowboy Lips", "Nose Ring In My Soup", "Bong Water Day"). Maybe it's a sign of the sad state of our civilization, that the deeper meanings of these songs are ignored in favor of the surface humor. But the Bobs will be back, to keep trying to make the world understand them. Maybe spreading a little cheer, even inadvertantly, is their way of making this horrible, tragic world of which they sing just a little bit better.

Back To The Bobs @ GAMH Jun 1, '97

MediaCast Home
Copyright © 1997 MediaCast
Last updated 97-06-01 by falcon