Bare Jr. – Elbow Room (Columbia, SC)
After a recent swing through the Southeast opening for the Black Crowes, a club tour back into the same areas could have been a letdown for the members of Nashville band Bare Jr. This particular night didn’t start out too promising, with openers Old Pike pulling a no-show for unknown reasons, and much of the local college crowd holed up from a monsoon-like rainstorm earlier that evening.
Singer and band namesake Bobby Bare Jr. is a perfect frontman for a rock band: hair wildly fried like he stuck his finger in an electric socket, and jumping all over the stage when he’s not singing. At the start of the set, he commented to the crowd, “We like y’all ’cause you swam here,” and they proceeded to tear through eleven songs from their Epic/Immortal debut album, Boo-Tay.
On the appropriate opener “Nothin’ Better To Do”, Tracey Hackney offered up the first of several lead dulcimer moments. His style is somewhere between a Townshend flail and the power-strumming of Springsteen; it’s a wonder his dulcimer remains in one piece after getting thrashed night after night onstage. “The Most” highlighted the unique vocal talents of Bare, a love-him-or-leave-him singer at best. Wielding more attitude than aptitude at times, and prone to a braying wail that would do an alley cat proud, he nonetheless is able to pull off more melodic numbers such as “Tobacco Spit” and “Patty McBride” with surprisingly musical aplomb.
What could have been an off night turned into a raucous show complete with a redneck couple dancing in front most of the night. The male half of the “spotlight dancers” had a T-shirt that said, in big white letters on the back, “The Ground Shakes, Your Knees Knock, Your Teeth Rattle.” I can’t think of a better way to sum up a Bare Jr. show.