A Night Inside the Mind of Bob Schneider
If you’ve ever wondered how it would be to exist for a time in a collage – or better yet in the mind of the artist who created that collage – then go see a Bob Schneider show. It’s the closest thing to a musical out-of-body experience.
Between straighforward solo guitar-based songs, Schneider beat-boxed into a mic and sampled it along with keyboard and guitar riffs, and then looped the playback behind such gems as “Ready Let’s Roll” from his King Kong Vol. III EP, a frenetic, high-speed-chase of a rap rife with pop culture references. Balanced against this would come “Love Theme from Mork and Mindy” and “Let the Light In,” his eyes playfully scanning the sellout crowd for their reaction.
Schneider was introduced to Red Clay Music’s Eddie Owen by none other than Alejandro Escovedo, back in 1991 at Owen’s previous and eponymous venue (Eddie’s Attic) in Decatur, Georgia. On this magical Friday night, Schneider opened with “Montgomery” from his King Kong Vol. I EP, an all-out tour de force showing an artist stripped to his core, laying it out there in all its raw emotional form.
A mainstay of the Austin, TX, music scene, Schneider is a one-man show of serious yet playful songs with references to IKEA, cocaine, witches flying to Atlanta to go clubbing, Stephen Stills, marriage, and fatherhood. An accomplished visual artist himself, his performance resembled a retrospective of his collage paintings, alternating between heartfelt acoustic folk numbers and eclectic surprises. At one point near the end of the show he even broke out a trumpet for an emotionally charged moment.
Amidst funk and folk overtones he remarked on new fatherhood, with a tongue-in-cheek admission that his young daughter made him “reevaluate all the songs I’ve written about whores.” Indeed, fatherhood changes many things, especially when daughters are involved.
Dedicated fans shouted out requests which Schneider gracefully fulfilled on such decades-old classics as “Cap’n Kirk,” “40 Dogs (Like Romeo and Juliet),”Big Blue Sea,” “Peaches,” “Honeypot,” and “Mudhouse.”
Schneider commanded the stage with a confidence I’ve never seen in any other performer, giving the perception of a full band at his disposal when it was just the one artist.
Fellow Austinite Graham Wilkinson opened with a strong performance that included the best cover of a David Bowie song, “Modern Love,” that I’ve ever heard, at once highlighting Bowie’s songwriting talent and Wilkinson’s skill at interpretation and performance. A highlight was “Lucky,” inspired by an appearance on Ray Willie Hubbard’s radio show during which Hubbard told Wilkinson that he was lucky to be on the show at all — a humbling moment to be sure. Wilkinson featured a hilarious moment of “method songwriting” regarding Jimmie Rogers, Nina Simone and Hayes Carll, in a song titled “The Drinking Song” inspired by these three hard-drinking songwriters.
These performances reaffirmed Austin’s place as a longtime hotbet of eclectic singer/songwriters, as well as Eddie Owen’s place in Atlanta for featuring the best this country has to offer in talented writers and performers.