When you hear about the Austin musical scene chances are that you are going to hear the name Bob Schneider. With a scene as big as Austin you'll surely hear lots of other names as well but Bob is definitely one of those artists on many people's short lists for Austin. That's in part because he's been in the scene for over fifteen years and in part because Bob has been so damn prolific, making music with several different bands (Joe Rockhead, The Ugly Americans, The Scabs, etc.) in addition to numerous solo albums. It's a lot to consider so with this post my goal is to offer a brief introduction to the music of the man who many seem to know of but few seem to know.
The biggest thing many people want to know about Bob Schneider as a musician is what style of music he writes and plays. That's always been a tough question to answer with Bob (no doubt confounding many a record exec) because, well he seems to play almost all of them. Some of the genres that he regularly treads on include rock, country, pop, rap, reggae and even salsa...to name a few. Frankly I've never heard a musician so versatile and that's probably the reason why so many people either love or hate the shows. Just when you think Bob and the band are heading in one direction they'll throw you a curve, with a driving hard rocker one song (like the Californian), a touching ballad the next (like The World Exploded Into Love), followed by an uptempo salsa-fied dance tune (like Tarantula). This approach makes Bob shows more than concerts - they're journeys. The question is are you up for the journey?
One of the things that definitely helps Bob pull off his musical high wire act is a cast of many talented musicians, some of whom you'll see in the photo gallery below. It's a crew of musicians who are ready to play just about anything at any time and regularly includes Bruce Hughes on bass, Conrad Choucroun on drums, Danny Levin on the cello, and Ollie Steck on trumpet and keyboards. On guitar at different times you'll see Jon Sanchez, Clint Wells, David Grissom or Kevin McKinney. You may see Wayne Salzmann playing drums with Bob as well. In addition to this crew of guys Bob plays special holiday shows with the Tosca String Quartet and is known to entertain a variety of special guests. I think that this revolving door of talent helps to keep the ideas and ultimately the music very fresh.
Below in the gallery you'll find some choice photos of Bob and his band playing outside at Threadgill's and at the regular Monday night Lonelyland gig at Saxon Pub.
In Austin you really have two types of opportunities to see Bob play. One opportunity is the Monday night Lonelyland (the collective name of Bob's regular band) residency at Saxon Pub. These shows are very different than other shows in that they are very experimental (you're likely to hear some new music as a result) and they tend to be very casual to the point where there is quite a bit of funny (and sometimes raunchy) stage banter. You can't expect too many crowd pleasing Bob favorites at these shows. Bob also plays at a number of other venues around Austin including Threadgill's, Moody Theater and the Nutty Brown Cafe (to name just a few) where he tends to pull out his more popular (i.e. more mainstream) songs.
It wouldn't be a full blog post without a video so here is something I filmed at Threadgill's where Bob and the band play a very angst filled balled called Montgomery off of Bob's latest album, King Kong. There's so much more to experience of Bob and Lonelyland so if you're still curious I highly recommend getting a taste by heading out to a gig. But for now enjoy the video!
One more thing...
Lot's of people ask me about the best entry point to Bob's music for the uninitiated. In that way I think that Bob's like the stock market. Try to time it if that's your thing but there's really no way to do it because he does not follow any predictable pattern with respect to the music. With that said I will give my opinion on some album themes below so perhaps you can start with the general style that most fits your current tastes.
- Newest - King Kong
- Most Rocking - The Californian
- Most Upbeat - Perfect Day
- Jazziest - The Galaxy Kings
- Most Popular - Lonelyland
- Best Songwriting - I'm Good Now
- Most Radio Ready - Lovely Creatures
- Moodiest - Burden Of Proof
- Most Raw - Songs Sung And Played On Guitar
- Seasonal - Christmastime