Bobby Bare Jr/Carey Kotsionis; May 2, 2011; High Noon Saloon
I used to think that Bobby Bare Jr was avoiding Madison, probably because he was. Whether it was intentional or not is another matter, but between the release of Bare Jr’s Boo-tay in 1998 (which marked the first I was aware of Junior) and the Bloodshot Records Beer-B-Que in 2009, I’m pretty sure he only played Madison once, opening for Robert Randolph at Luther’s Blues. He’s certainly tried to make up for it in the last six months. He headlined the Frequency only a few weeks before he opened for Jay Farrar at the Majestic in November, and followed that just six months later with tonight’s show at the High Noon. While there was a pretty decent crowd there for his Frequency show, tonight was looking to be a little thin. Monday shows are always tough, and at the posted start time of 8 PM there were only a handful of people in the room.
Opener Carey Kotsionis finally took the stage around 8:40. It’s pretty well known that I don’t like girl singers, but the ones I do like tend to have very distinctive voices, and that was the case with . She reminded me a bit of Shivaree’s Ambrosia Parsley, both have sultry voices that don’t resort to theatrics. Bare told me later that she had been outselling him in merch every night. Most of his fans already have all his releases he explained, but they were all wowed by his opening act. She played guitar and was backed by a drummer and bass player. The three of them returned as Bare’s backing band, with Kotsionis moving to keyboard.
The female backing vocal has always been integral to Bare’s sound. For years that role was filled by Deanna Varragona and her baritone sax. His last tour was the first time I’d seen anyone other than her, as Blue Giant’s female lead Anita Robinson stepped into the role while other members of her band who also opened doubled as Bare’s band. She was good, but Kotsionis was even better. Songs like “Valentine” beg for the feminine touch, and she nailed it. In fact, she may have been what made this set one of the best I had seen from Bare in awhile. Rather than bemoan the fact that there wasn’t a crowd, he did his best to impress the ones that were there. The set contained many of my favorites including “Visit Me in Music City,” “Flat Chested Girl from Maynardville,” and his totally rocked out cover of the Smiths’ “What Difference Does It Make.”
Perhaps my favorite moment of the night was when he played the ridiculously catchy “Monk at the Disco.” It had been ages since I had heard it live and somehow had forgotten all about it. The smile I’d been wearing all night got much bigger when he started the story of the holy man who looks to convert the patrons of a disco, including a bartender who tries to sell him blow, and a girl with blonde curly hair who forgot to put on her underwear. I’m smiling again just thinking about it. Since the band didn’t have a place to stay, I offered them my place. I’ve been trying to get Bare to the house for years, maybe the next time it will be to play a show instead of just crash on the couch.