Time is strange
Freak show: Wild-haired, wild-eyed Anton Barbeau either charmed or freaked out everyone at his record-release party, as he does.
“I’m glad you’re in a good mood tonight because it’s a fucking terrible start,” he said, fumbling around with his loop pedal. Beep. Boop. Beep. Boop. “It’s all my fault, and I’m saying that in a Christ-like way.”
The Jesus comparisons continued. So did the eccentric monologues and digressions. He treated us to his thoughts on jazz, his fake British accent, his failed plan to become a stoner band and his amazing green gnome hat. Watching Barbeau, a Sacramento scene staple of the ’80s and ’90s, felt like communicating with someone who speaks a different language, with amusingly bizarre, mistranslated bits. But again, that’s nothing new.
New is Barbeau’s new record, Magic Act. It’s very Barbeau, in a good way: surreal, sometimes silly lyrics—see “Heavy Psychedelic Toilet” and “Black Lemon Sauce”—with swirling guitar, spacey jams and a David Bowie vibe. Some songs are speedy, catchy and pure pop; others a little more fuzzy and experimental. But the most magical part is how cohesive it sounds as a whole, given Barbeau’s collaboration with musicians across the globe, all via the Internet.
Currently, Barbeau lives in Berlin, Germany. He’s still got a strong Sacramento fan base, evidenced by the crowd that filled up Shine last week and bobbed along to old tunes, like “Banana Song,” which saw Barbeau unsuccessfully begging everyone to sing “banana” a simply unreasonable number of times. It was a little awkward—seriously, “banana” is just an awkward word—but I greatly enjoyed the song’s marriage advice: “Let’s wait until we’re mature and financially solid.”
Karla Kane of opening band the Corner Laughers and Sacramento’s Allyson Seconds joined Barbeau on stage for a few tunes, along with his three-piece backing band, named Kenny.
“In this age of Imagine Dragons, Kenny is a fucking great band name,” Barbeau said.
It’s a fair and worthy point, but I can’t be the only person to think Barbeau’s band’s name would, actually, be something more like Imagine Dragons.
What a birthday: Local musician Joseph Kojima Gray celebrated his 45th year on Earth with a show at Old Ironsides Saturday, featuring four of his bands. That means he was on stage from 9:30 p.m. until well after midnight. And it turned out, as he informed the crowd during the 50 Watt Heavy set, that his actual birthday wasn’t until after midnight anyway.
50 Watt Heavy was the headlining band, which made sense. It’s his current and the most well-known group, mixing hard-edged riffs and roots music into a tight rock ’n’ roll package. It was impressive how much energy Gray still had for 50 Watt Heavy, considering he had just finished three consecutive sets. More interesting was seeing the how elements of each of his other bands influenced 50 Watt Heavy’s Americana sound.
Regards, one of Gray’s defunct bands, opened the night. Songs were heavily soaked in rowdy honky-tonk, with a hard-driving rock energy. Danny Morris and the California All Stars, one of his still active bands, played after with a more traditional easygoing country sound, complete with a steel pedal player—the kind of music that inspires line dancing. In fact, it did inspire some rowdy dancing.
Right before 50 Watt Heavy’s set, the Regulars took the stage for their first show in seven years. They played Big Star-influenced ’70s power-pop, with an emphasis on larger than life rock ’n’ roll anthems.
All the while, Gray switched from singing to guitar to bass to drums and back again. By the time 50 Watt Heavy took the stage, not only was it clear that Gray has the stamina of a musician half his age, but he’s also a diverse player with skills on every rock ’n’ roll instrument. Can’t wait for the big 50th birthday bash.