This wasn’t the first time Bobby Bare Jr destroyed a tambourine in Madison, but at least last time it didn’t happen till the day after the show. On his last visit to Madison, he and Carey Kotsionis were waiting for the MegaBus to take them to Chicago when Bare’s suitcase tipped over, cracking the tambourine hooked over the handle. This time I’m not even sure what happened. During the first song there was a crack and a few sad sounding jingles, and that was the end of the tambourine. I hope when he replaces this one he springs for the heavy duty plastic model. For the rest of the night, he would introduce a song and then bemoan, “this one has a really cool tambourine part.” I thought I had found him a worthy stand-in when I brought the garbage can full of bottle caps up to the stage, but it just slid across the carpet.
Bare may have missed his percussion immensely, but for the rest of us the absence was not as noticeable. Eventually he got over the loss, and was his usual excitable self. He often seems as into the show as his audience is, clapping enthusiastically after songs like it wasn’t him who just played them. He covered much of the material from his solo career, but hesitated when it came to the Bare Jr stuff. He said no to “Faker,” (sorry Danielle) but eventually gave in to a request for “The Soggy Daisy.” A long, rambling, and often hilarious, monologue about the residents of the titular nursing home, the song would have been difficult if you did it every day, but when you haven’t done it for years it seemed impossible. Fortunately there was a super fan at the back of the room who prompted Bare through most of the song.
Since it was the day after the Hallmark holiday, he opened with the appropriate “Valentine,” which sounds like a hearts and roses song but quite definitely isn’t. “How many of you have killed you Valentine?” he asked at the end. When someone asked for “Rock & Roll Halloween” later in the set, he made the point that it was the wrong holiday. Bare has a clear, pure voice, making it easy to hear every word to his often amusing songs. Which is great for songs like “One of Us Has Got to Go” and my all-time favorite “The Monk at the Disco.” The latter details the plight of a holy man trying to do God’s work at a disco, where a tall, black bartender tries to sell him blow and a drunk white boy spills a Jack & coke down his robe. Not only is it funny, but you can dance to it.
It had been a year and a half since Bare had played the basement after a string of dates close together in town, and that seemed enough to generate demand. Instead of the couple dozen who came to see him at the house last time, this show sold out, though it was just a few hours before. There were many, many years where Bare didn’t play Madison, I’m glad we are back on his radar. And I’m really glad the House of Righteous Music is where he likes to play.