Saturday, December 29, 2012

Robbie Fulks Year End Wrap-Up; December 29, 2012; Fitzgerald’s, Berwyn

If you’ve seen Robbie Fulks play you know he’s an impressive guitar player with a wide vocal range and immense wealth of musical knowledge. You probably also noticed that’s he’s a great and quick witted storyteller, but nothing shows off the depth of his comic genius like his year end shows. This year after the band played one song he announced that they would be doing the “so-called” comedy section first, in case anyone was only there for that and wanted to leave after. I’m not sure if anyone did since I was right up front and had no idea what was going on behind me, nor did I have any intention of leaving.

He was aided in this comic marathon by his willing and able band. As usual Grant Tye was on guitar and Gerald Dowd behind the drum kit. Apparently bass player Mike Fredrickson was a last minute cancellation and was replaced by Casey McDonough, who can apparently do it all. Last year he played keyboard, but this year we got Scott Stevenson who was almost exclusively referred to as “new guy” and even sang a song about it. The first order of business was the Rap of the Dead, which happily made a return after being absent last year. It is easily the single most impressive part of these shows. The meticulously comprehensive rap must take weeks to memorize. I was worried that somehow he was going to forget Davy Jones but he showed up halfway through. Perhaps the best line was “Mitt Romney… might as well be.”

Early on, Fulks turned to Gerald and called him Mike. Gerald protested that he should know his name by now, but Fulks claimed that Mike had cancelled too late and he would have to play his part. He did that by donning a large white afro and a pair of garish blue glasses. That was only the first of many wigs, which included a pair that looked appropriate for the British Parliament. As usual there were costume changes and hilarious songs, the best of which was a tribute to the “God particle” also known as the Higgs boson. “There’s a boson, down in Higgsville” the song went. The comedy section also relied heavily on Joe Dempsey who again this year provided some of the biggest laughs, though admittedly his turn as a cranky old man to end the set wasn’t near as good as Robbie’s who seems as though he is destined to be a cane shaking “get off my lawn” senior.

The second set played like a greatest hits record as the band tore through the songs they have been playing live for years. It’s hard to argue with a set that includes “Let’s Live Together” and “Nickels and Dimes.” Perhaps the biggest surprise was Gerald getting a turn at lead singer. I already knew he could sing, and I knew he could write a great country song (the tear in my beer instant classic “I Didn’t Finish Drinking Last Night” that he played in the basement back in March), but I didn’t know he could also do power pop. Though from his time in Frisbie I guess I shouldn’t have been surprised. “I Do” was not the sappy wedding song you might have expected from the title, much colder than that, the chorus claimed “I want to say I don’t like to make you cry but I do.”

After Robbie stopped taking his year end show on the road (he played several New Year’s Eves in Madison), there were several years where I didn’t make the trip to see this ridiculously entertaining show. I won’t make that mistake again.

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