Eef Barzelay, the lead singer and only constant member of the band Clem Snide, played a show at this tiny coffee shop several years ago, and it doesn’t make any more sense now than it did then. The Indie Coffee staff, who were asking only a $5 donation for the show, seemed ecstatic to have him back and I had to wonder if maybe they are friends. We got there early enough to get seats, but by the time the show was well under way there were people sitting on the floor and filling in every available space. Barzelay and the Heligoats (Chris Otepka) played unamplified, and Barzelay in particular seemed to enjoy the freedom of it.
The Heligoats played first, sounding better than I remembered, before Barzelay took the “stage.” His set started a little rough, his guitar seemed out of tune and the songs unremarkable. In fact, I even thought about leaving, but things improved quickly, to the point that by the end of the show I thought it was pretty awesome. Barzelay is hilariously and consistently inappropriate. I was blushing, and I was glad that the kids who had come with their parents were playing downstairs, safely out of earshot. He was affable, charming and funny. He was happy to take requests, too bad I was too chicken to yell mine. In addition to playing the best of Clem Snide and his solo records (“I Love the Unknown” and “Ballad of Bitter Honey” the highlights respectively), he also chose some great covers. The band recently released an earnest album of Journey covers, so it was not a surprise when “Faithfully” showed up mid-set. What was a surprise was that no one seemed to recognize it. Not true of “Don’t Stop Believing” which had folks singing along. Even more of a crowd pleaser was Bryan Adams “Summer of 69,” especially the raunchy “long lost” verse that Barzelay had access to as a long-standing member of the Bryan Adams fan club. Sometimes it is hard to know when he is kidding. I know he was about the verse, but it’s hard to know about the fan club.
Throughout the show I kept thinking how much better it would have been in my basement, starting with Michelle saying “this would be so much better in your basement” as it started to fill up. Barzelay had sent an e-mail several months back to the Clem Snide mailing list offering private house concerts for $1K plus travel. I think he may be negotiable on that point since I did e-mail him after the show offering my venue the next time through. He thought it sounded like a great idea. And then I’ll ask him to play “Ice Cube.”