January 11th, 2003 was another of not-nearly-enough Bob Wiseman shows in a weird venue with a quirky band featuring a bad name. In this case it was Bob Wiseman and his Damn Ugly Children – a five or six-piece band that included a clarinetist (I believe he was) who also played percussion-like found-sound instruments like crinkling a plastic garbage bag or sweeping a straw broom on the wooden stage, a lady playing half-filled wineglass rims, etcetera – at a damn ugly bar on Bank Street called Bumpers.
Bumpers was no high class venue to be sure; I believe I was only in the room once or twice (though when they converted it to a Works Burger I started going quite regularly) and this was surely the first. I know that because I very almost died when I went to the bathroom before the show started. I was pointed to a darkened hallway that led to the latrines and after one step I was forced to quickly notice that it wasn’t a hallway at all, but rather a pitch-dark staircase down to the basement. I have no idea how I managed to keep from tumbling ass over teakettle to a concrete end, but I didn’t even spill my beer. Good thing too, ‘cuz I woulda missed a heck of a concert (and spilled a beer).
Of course a Bob Wiseman show is a must for me. Not only that, I would always happily bend over backwards to convince my friends to come to the shows so they could share my glee. As a matter of fact for this one I promised my friend Bradm that if he didn’t like the show I would personally refund his cover charge (I didn’t have to). And this Bumpers performance was indeed another heart-exploding, jaw-dropping experience that I was fortunate to attend with a pile of friends.
This show was nothing short of awesome, with a large pile of special moments. He played Sweet Gertrude by request, turning in a lovely rendition of the song about his ex-girlfriend Maureen, even if he forgot a bunch of the lyrics (including the part about how he refuses to give her the satisfaction of naming the song after her). There were audience sing-alongs that were amazing, though he later told me his worst nightmare is to have an audience clap along to one of his songs. I don’t blame him. Audiences don’t go to rehearsals.
Though Bob doesn’t jam in the traditional “jamband” sense* every song of every show comes across as totally unique, no matter how many times I hear them. I guess it’s because he tries to play in the moment and every moment is different. However he does it, Wiseman always manages to present his musical vignettes as fresh, important works of living art. Which is probably why I’m such a fan.
Music is important. Bob Wiseman knows it and he preaches it every time he plays.
*Though any jamband fan would be thrilled to listen to his instrumental album Beware of Bob, but good luck finding a copy.