Bob on Bob, by Allan MacInnis
Arrived at the Rickshaw to find the floor filled with... seats? But that's so 2021...
But I mean, okay, no one moshes to one man with a guitar, doesn't matter who he is or what he's doing. Bob Hanham and I speculated about just how rowdy it must have been for the Viagra Boys last night, when presumably no such seats were in place - with him pointing out that that big wooden barrier in front of the stage was bent several degrees in, assumedly from the combined weight of people pushing against it. It looked like the metal legs, driven down into the Rickshaw floor, had simply bent - a pretty impressive feat of pressure, if so.
By contrast, hardly anyone even stood up, last night, which as I've observed before, I did not mind at all - to get a great seat at a gig and have no one stand in front of me is a rare treat for an old, sore meatbag like me. Better yet, Bob (Hanham, not Mould) had arrived before me and staked out the best seats in the house.
So okay, back to this again, I don't mind.
There was no merch. There was no one signing things, for the most part. Vic briefly came out - he and I are working on an expansion of my interview below and we had to talk about a couple of things - and while he was out, Gerald got him to sign a gig poster, I got him to sign a record, and maybe uber-Du fan Adam and Huskee Dude Nick got to say hellos... but that was the extent of the direct contact between musicians last night and the audience that I witnessed.
With shows cancelling (including, locally, Brian Jonestown Massacre and I gather now DRI*) and people like Keith Morris getting sick, I can hardly blame Bob and Vic for being trepidatious.
While I was delighted to hear "Getting Nowhere" live, and shot a clip of it, to boot, the treat for me in Vic's set was the acoustic workup of Articles of Faith's "What We Want is Free." which he closed on (not my clip but you can hear it on acoustic here). I like it more as an acoustic tune than a hardcore one! His strumming was powerful and sometimes his ringing top string sounded like spectral cello accompaniment.
Vic Bondi by Allan MacInnis
With Bob I found myself thinking about how maybe one of the reasons I loved Zen Arcade so much was that all the songs spoke to me, seemed totally relevant to my life; it was like they were singing about my experience, not the band members' own. Maybe that was by accident, not design - maybe the experience of all young men is similar enough that it allowed for easier projection of my own needs onto the songs? - but I felt a huge emotional connection to Bob Mould's lyrics back then. As he's has matured, so too have his songs become more specific to his life experience, more individual, more personal, more about him. Even if I understand what Bob is singing about on a song like "Voices in My Head," I still don't connect with the lyrics on the same visceral level as I did with "Something I Learned Today," for example, because I don't really have the same relationship to my self-talk as Bob does, don't experience things quite the same way; it feels like I'm listening to a song that Bob is singing about HIS experience of life, as opposed to something that feels like it could have been about mine.
Bob Mould by Allan MacInnis
So I spent some time thinking about that Dylan line about how "I've made shoes for everyone, even you, while I still go barefoot," and noticing that with so many of his songs last night - even ones I've come to love like "The Descent" - I really don't have a strong sense of what they're about! There are lines in "The Descent" that I think are brilliant (I get a little unquantifiable chill over "I didn't want to play the song/ that gave people so much hope") but have I been there myself? No. Do I know what song he means by that? No (Du never seemed all that hopeful to me, actually!). Do I know what it feels like to be in that position? No. Do I even come close to understanding the rest of the lyrics - even to know what the descent of the title is? Nope. I can enjoy the song - it's one of my very favourite solo Bob Mould tunes - but it isn't something I can put on my own feet and walk around in, y'know?
To tweak the Dylan line, he isn't making shoes anymore - he's barefoot all the time. I also thought about how Bob's guitar has such an amazingly fullsome, resonant sound, and I closed my eyes and lost myself in the noisy droning swirl of it for various numbers, as Bob stalked the stage. Vic's strumming style had been much more muscular - his right arm got a real workout - but it hadn't produced near as much swirl, just the aforesaid phantom cello (then again, Vic's guitar had been an acoustic. Whatta I know, I am not a guitarist...).
Anyhow, that's where my head was through many of the songs - they're really about Bob, now; but he sure put passion into his expressing them. The evenings other Bob, Bob Hanham - who had spent much of the time before I arrived chatting with Milo, the singer of Gay Cowboys in Bondage, sitting a row behind us - thought that Mould was even stronger than he had been last time, but to be honest, he's always seemed strong to me, all three times I've seen him. The only thing I did think was an improvement over last show, and a really pleasant surprise to boot, was Du's "Never Talking to You Again," one of their most universal expressions and not a song I'd expected would remain in the set after the last tour; Bob had started covering after his bandmate Grant Hart, who wrote it and sang it, died, and played it last time he was at the Rickshaw, but I didn't think it would still be around, a tour later. It felt less like a Grant Hart song Bob was covering and more like an expression of Bob's own feelings, as delivered last night; maybe it worked better for me this time because the original is an acoustic song, and this was just Bob and his guitar, no band, unlike last show - a more fitting arrangement. In any event, I liked his reading of it better last night.
My one hope did not materialize - that Vic and Bob might sing a song together. Ah, well. There were no encores, and if anyone came out to greet the people still milling to the side of the stage when I left, half an hour after the show had ended, I didn't see it. I suspect Gerald's gig poster went unsigned!
Vic Bondi and Bob Mould play Bellingham tonight - if the Mount Baker Theatre is the place I'm thinking of, it's a great old vintage movie theatre in the bookstore district of Bellingham. I used to love going there, and went a few times, even seeing Patrice Leconte's superb (but maybe slightly misogynistic) Monsieur Hire there when there was no one else in the theatre, just me, front row.
Should be a bit fuller tonight!
*apparently the DRI cancellation of their Canadian dates has nothing to do with COVID but rather allegations against the band on social media. I just wanted to see the Dayglos at the Rickshaw, personally!