concert reviews

the Bobs at the Barns of Wolf Trap, Vienna, VA, Wednesday 12 March 2008

The genre "a cappella" typically conjures one of two images: that of a dorky, bow-tie-clad Ivy League group, usually with a goofy name (Yale Whiffenpoofs, I'm looking at you), or that of the Carmen Sandiego-seeking, Folgers-endorsing vocal band Rockapella. The Bobs are an a cappella quartet that falls outside both traditions. Neither conventional nor stuffy, they mostly perform original songs, and they've taken a page from the Ramones (each member has adopted the middle name "Bob").

On Wednesday night at the Barns of Wolf Trap, the Bobs showcased their sense of humor alongside their vocal prowess, with songs that put a lighthearted spin on ordinary situations --one about wresting one's cellphone from one's pocket ("Tight Pants Tango"), one exalting unusual characters on the street ("Sandwich Man") and one whose remarkably cohesive lyrics were sourced from bumper stickers spotted in Berkeley ("Kill Your Television").

Sound aside, any group is fun to watch when its members are so obviously enjoying themselves on stage. Dan Bob Schumacher's fiery facial expressions recalled those of Jack Black from "School of Rock"; Richard Bob Greene's anchor-solid bass was both seductive and devious on "Little Red Riding Hood"; Matthew Bob Stull's whiplike interjections of "hoo-hah!" propelled the lively "Disappointment Pants"; and the group reveled in its madrigal-style version of the Doors' "Light My Fire." What began as a fairly straightforward arrangement of Cream's "White Room" quickly became Bobified, with Amy Bob Englehardt's vocals passing through a distortion pedal to provide the song's squealing guitar solo, with the result as entertaining as it was convincing.

-- Catherine P. Lewis

.: Originally published: The Washington Post, 15 March 2008; Page C08
.: Selected discography: Get Your Monkey Off My Dog (the Bobs, 2008); Rhapsody in Bob (the Bobs, 2006); Best of the Bobs: 20 Songs From 20 Years (the Bobs, 2003); Coaster (the Bobs, 2000); I Brow Club (the Bobs, 1997); Too Many Santas! (the Bobs, 1996); Plugged (the Bobs, 1995); Cover the Songs of... (the Bobs, 1994); Shut Up and Sing (the Bobs, 1993); Songs for Tomorrow Morning (the Bobs, 1990); Sing the Songs of... (the Bobs, 1990); My, I'm Large (the Bobs, 1987); The Bobs (the Bobs, 1983).