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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.