The Bobs' a cappella irreverence will keep you bobbing
The Bobs, the well-known a cappella ensemble, brings its holiday show to Seattle's Triple Door on Monday, Dec. 15, 2008.
Special to The Seattle Times
On the Internet
The Bobs: Hear their trademark a cappella style on their MySpace: www.myspace.com/thebobsmusic
7:30 tonight, Triple Door, 216 Union St.; $20 (206-838-4333 or www.thetripledoor.net).
Noon-1 p.m. Thursday as part of the free lunchtime Seattle Presents concert series, by the Mayor's Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs, in the lobby of City Hall, 600 Fourth Ave., Seattle; free (206-684-7171 or or www.seattle.gov/seattlepresents).
Family drama, loony relatives, overconsumption and badly misguided gifts: When you think about it, the holiday season was made for the Bobs.
Now in its third decade of musical mayhem, the a cappella ensemble continues to ply a trademark style that combines astounding vocal agility, deliciously ridiculous original pieces, wildly imaginative arrangements of tunes by the likes of the Doors, Kurt Weill and the Beatles, and off-the-cuff stage antics that give every performance the edge of stand-up comedy.
And for the Bobs, the holidays are a gift that keep on giving, providing the group with plenty of material ripe for Bobification. The quartet performs a holiday show tonight at the Triple Door, though half the program reflects the group's ever-expanding book of nonthematic material, with an emphasis on last year's CD "Get Your Monkey Off My Dog."
"As a topic, the holidays are kind of unavoidable. It's an easy target," says Richard "Bob" Greene, a founding Bob who recently moved from his longtime home in Berkeley, Calif., and now divides his time between Virginia and Seattle, where he's joined co-Bob founder Matthew "Bob" Stull and most recently Bob-christened Dan "Bob" Schumacher (the fourth Bob, Amy "Bob" Engelhardt, lives in Los Angeles).
The Bobs' holiday fair includes seasonal favorites such as the Beatles' "Eight Days A Week" reimagined as a Hanukkah song; an ode to excessive lawn displays, "50 Kilowatt Tree"; the mall adventure saga, "Too Many Santas"; and that traditional Yule classic "Christmas in Jail."
The Bobs are often thought of as a group that specializes in unlikely covers, but the majority of their book consists of original pieces like the paranoid feline fantasy "Fluffy's Plan for World Domination" and the tender love song "Please Let Me Be Your Third World Country." The mistaken impression probably stems from the ensemble's origins.
The group first came together in San Francisco in 1981, when Stull and Gunnar Madsen lost their jobs delivering singing telegrams. Unwilling to give up the glamorous showbiz lifestyle, they placed a want ad for a bass singer. In a sign of fate or foolishness, Greene, a songwriter and recording engineer, was the only person who answered the call. After rehearsing as a trio for months, they debuted at an open-mic contest at a Cuban restaurant and won, wowing the audience with the Talking Heads' "Psycho Killer."
When they added Janie "Bob" Scott to the mix the quartet started playing jazz spots around the Bay Area. At the time there was virtually no a cappella scene, so they pretty much cornered the market as the world's only new wave a cappella band.
"I think that setting spurred us to be more improvisational, not only in terms of the music but the presentation," Greene says.
With the release of the Bobs 1983 eponymous debut on Kaleidoscope Records, the quartet scored a Grammy nomination for its stomping version of "Helter Skelter." National tours, television appearances, and collaborations with Oberlin Dance Collective and Momix followed, which led to a commission from Lincoln Center. Through personnel changes over the years, the group's vast sonic palette has only expanded, techniques that get passed on within the group.
"I'm not opposed to making funny noises in any situation," Engelhardt says. "But it's not something that I'd done before at all. I remember rehearsing 'Caravan' for the first time and my lips hurt. I do some guitars, some trumpet and a couple little percussion things. I mainly learn from watching and listening. Maybe guys sit at the back of the classroom and make a lot more noises than women do."
Andrew Gilbert: firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2008 The Seattle Times Company
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