Consider the damn state of things when a songwriter with a decade-plus experience, in front of an adoring sellout crowd at the Granada Theater, says the following halfway through his set: "Alright, we're gonna do a Harlem Shake video."
Bob Schnedier pulled on a Luchador mask after he said it and instructed everyone to just move around, basically ("It's preferable if you take off your clothes while you do it"). I don't know if that's an accurate guide to the Harlem Shake or not -- I do know that it doesn't matter. And he triggered the Baauer track and demanded the house lights and more than a thousand adults went generally apeshit. He let it go for a couple minutes then cut the track, pulling the mask over his head to reveal a wry smile. "Well done, motherfuckers."
And then he and his excellent band ripped into "The Californian," a rock and roll song as mean and big as the Wild West.
I don't know why Bob Schneider indulged a tired meme this weekend. Maybe his management told him the resulting YouTube video would get him some buzz ahead of the release of his new record.
Or maybe he wanted to prove something by comparison. Maybe he wanted to offer his music side-by-side with The Zeitgeist to show us what boring ephemera culture is championing these days: A non-dance with funny hats, named for a dance track which itself is named for an actual dance to which none of this bears any resemblance.
"The Californian" lands hard in any context, but here it rang true as a steel beam, and just as solidly. I love both our modern culture and dance music unabashedly, but it's hard to say either is capable of the same lasting resonance as a simple, true story hung on the right few chords.
That would be an interesting commentary by Schneider, though I'm not sure it would be an effective one. Because despite the crowd's cheers and persistent sing-alongs and piercing demands for an encore, the biggest reaction of the night was for the Harlem Shake. Every arm was raised; the floor shook with the strain of so many people enjoying themselves so exuberantly. Which makes sense, because we all have our little media empires to tend to. And if it's a good time to post super low quality videos of bands blowing out cell phone microphones, think how great it is when the band posts a video of you. Think how many likes you can get by reposting that! FAYM, indeed.
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Almost certainly I am thinking harder about this than Bob Schneider. It probably wasn't calculated at all: Schneider has never expressed much concern for image control. He probably didn't spend enough time on the Internet earlier this year to have those stupid videos wear through the novelty. And he thought, "Hey, you know what will make me laugh? Doing a Harlem Shake thing with a crowd at a sold-out show." The end.
He left Dallas this weekend with plenty to feel satisfied about. He is a deft songwriter of prodigious range. "Tarantula," is a Latin jam that remains his surest hit, but he is equally capable of ballads and blues-rock and even something that resembles hip-hop. All this discordant source material lands smoothly because Schneider writes melodies that feel like old friends and his lyrics live always in the territory between sweet and smart -- never tacky or pretentious.
MVP of the Bob Schneider Band: Still and forever goes to Oliver Steck, who plays trumpet, accordion, euphonium, harmonica, keyboard, etc. and whose insane repertoire of onstage dance moves included the running man, flapping his arms like a bird, a right-left-RIGHT left-right-LEFT hip shake, a mambo, a pony ride and many varieties of jumps.