November 16, 2007

Color me confused, Bob

Right before Austin, Texas singer-songwriter Bob Schneider took the stage in a packed Denver house last night, I was talking to a nice 20-something accountant named Kristen about what we expected from the concert (both of us Bob first-timers). I told her that I didn’t exactly know what was to come because Bob seems to vacillate between two disparate musical extremes.

A friend of mine made me two Bob Schneider mixes last year, one of all his best album tracks (songs like “Come With Me Tonight” [my video], “God Is My Friend”, “I’m Good Now” [my video] and “Big Blue Sea”). The other CD was full of his random outtakes and b-sides, with decidedly a more playful twist. The b-sides mix often wandered into rap territory, silly rhymes, salty language, crowd-singalongs, etc. I was wondering how he was going to integrate the disc one tunes with disc two last night.

The show ended up uncomfortably trying to straddle both types, and I found it to not serve either aim as well as it could. On the one hand Bob has these amazingly compelling, honest, searching tunes of alt-pop perfection, where his strong clear voice fills the room with evocations like “just want to shine as bright as brooklyn on a saturday night / just want to scream until i drown,” and then the very next song is about a mummy (yes, as in spooky dead Halloween mummy) who can’t get no play walkin down the street, and then a tune about (kids, cover your ears) “Tittybangin” and its mass appeal for a variety of practical reasons (heavy flow –yes, he sings that– or not wantin to have a new baby brother). Sure, we chuckled, but the vast incongruity threw me.

So the wacky parts felt like an R-rated Dan Zanes (children’s troubadour). Like maybe the best option would be to bring your 15 year-old kid brother to the show, and he could hold your beer and laugh at the tittybang jokes while you go to the bathroom, and then while the serious and gorgeous songs are playing, he could be amused by the (not lying) girl who ran up next to me, casually said, “Can I just sneak in here? I need to flash Bob” and then proceeded to do so, the full deals right there in his line of sight. The 15 year-old would like that. But the rest of the audience seemed split by the two different shows going on; half there to party, half there to see his music. Bob’s got a lot of talent, I was just unclear where he was going with it all.

He did move me with his “grown-up” songs, if we wanna call them that. He played a tune which I can only find one lone reference to online, but he hit it out of the park last night.

Something about the way the lyrics of the short chorus hung in the air just sliced me; we all wish the world would do what we wanted it to do, and we all know when we make that plaintive request that it never will.

I wish I was a baby bear sleeping in the brown
Winter grass in April while the sun was going down
And I wish my shoes were empty
And I was still in bed
With you there beside me with your dreams inside your head

Oh I wish the world would do what I want it to
And I wish the wind would blow me, blow me back to you

I wish your Mom was ugly and your Dad was ugly too
Cuz then they couldn’t had a girl to be as beautiful as you
And I wish I was a tight rope walker with legs made out of gold
Cuz I’d hold you in my golden legs and never let you go

Oh I wish the world would do what I want it to
And I wish the wind would blow me, blow me back to you

I wish I could see Jesus shining in the sky
So he could finally tell me everything was just a lie
And I wish I knew that God’s love was all I’d ever need
I’d cut my candy teeth for fun and let the good times bleed

Oh I wish the world would do what I want it to
Oh I wish the world would do what I want it to
And I wish the world would blow me, blow me back to you

UPDATED: Hear it here

[more pics]

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  • I agree 100%! I loved his album “Lonelyland” but hadn’t heard any of his other stuff, but decided that it was probably just as good…so I decided to hit one of his shows last year and the same thing happened. It was a good show, but uncomfortable at times. He’s a great singer/musician/songwriter…but the show wasn’t what I was expecting.

    Lindsay — November 16, 2007 @ 2:19 pm

  • i feel bad you didn’t have an awesome show…the first show i saw was an amazing solo acoustic performance that i haven’t had a chance to post yet (back in 2006), but the last show i saw was amazing…i saw him twice in austin where i thought he would be in his element, but i think those shows were closer to what you saw, unfortunately – a lot of songs he plays live but not home run songs…

    if you want the bob schneider i know, i’ve got the last show i saw him play for download…don’t give up yet! he really is one of my favorite live artists…

    Little Dynamite — November 16, 2007 @ 3:32 pm

  • That’s about what I’d expect from a Bob Schneider concert, which is why I think I’d rather stick with the CDs and skip the more “juvenile” songs. He really does have some very disparate songs.

    Those lyrics and the reactions both of you had to that song make it seem like one of his better ones. It’s a shame it doesn’t seem to be attainable in any form other than his live performances.

    scwtte — November 16, 2007 @ 3:46 pm

  • the dirty juvenille songs are mostly from his days as the lead singer of the scabs, a pretty famous austin party band that got him his start.

    the scabs rock…white boy funk with g love-ish blues rap and a big horn section.

    but songs like “i fucked you sister in the ass, boy” get old pretty quick.

    Anonymous — November 17, 2007 @ 2:24 pm

  • I’m seeing him for the first time live at Shank Hall coming up, and can’t wait. I’ve listened to about 3 whole bootleg shows so far and LOVE them all. I love live way more than studio any day. Although I did really love his “Californian” CD I just bought. I love his range in songs.

    As far as his juvenile songs, I think you could safely say I’m almost impossible to offend. So I don’t really mind “salty” lyrics. The question is, will they get “old”. Personally, I loved the “mummy” the first time I heard it today. Will I want to listen over and over like I do to other artists I love. Not sure. Something about songs like that, while they don’t offend me, seem hard to really listen to listen to over and over.

    I do personally love his poems though. The one about “being free his one true love” was totally awesome and I could listen to that over and over for sure.

    eradicatore — November 17, 2007 @ 9:32 pm

  • Hey Heather…great to find the blog, looks like I’ve stumbled upon a jewel here…and looks like you and I have been to two shows in common recently (Wilco). Thanks for all the great links, too! Rockin’ out to Tryin to Break My Heart right now!

    tarheelnuto — November 27, 2007 @ 4:25 pm

  • Hey, I’m sharing in your frustration in finding any other reference to that song. Unbelievable– for anyone wanting to hear it, youtube “bob schneider shubas” and click part 1. I’m currently trying to figure it out on my guitar. I’ve never heard a song more real. T

    Andrew — August 18, 2008 @ 3:54 pm

  • Andrew – You can hear it here.

    heather — August 18, 2008 @ 4:01 pm

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

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