Tim Barry at the Prophet Bar
Longtime followers of the east coast punk scene might recall Avail, a Richmond-based punk band whose frontman was Tim Barry. I'd missed out on their work, having lost most of my interest in punk after the 1980s. Thanks to testimonials from a couple of friends, however, I am no longer oblivious to Barry's solo career. One listen to his songs "Avoiding Catatonic Surrender" and "Church of Level Track" (both of which are available on his Myspace page at: http://www.myspace.com/timbarryrva ) told me immediately that I'd been missing out on something GOOD. I found his sound to be a natural fit with a lot of the alt-country, folk, and roots-rock stuff I've been listening to during the past few years. Barry's stuff goes well with the likes of , the Old 97s, , and .
The lyrics to some of Barry's songs express a sense of cynicism and bitterness -- perfect anthems for the morose, the forgotten, the disenchanted. Others feature a more optimistic counterpoint as Barry, a part-time hobo, celebrates the freedom and adventure of life on the road and rails. Some of his songs condemn materialism and consumerism, and instead extol the virtues and value of friendship and family.
It wasn't just Barry's music and freight-hopping experiences that attracted my interest. The cover and sleeves of his cd's feature railroad-themed photos and art, including stencil artwork by buZ blurr. Barry pays tribute to the "Colossus of Roads" freight car moniker on his album "Rivanna Junction"; the title of each song is named for a Colossus icon caption.
Song title inspiration - the Colossus caption which inspired the title for one of my favorite Tim Barry songs
Barry's friendship with the late Travis Conner (of " Twitty" moniker fame) intrigued me further, as did the knowledge that another well-known moniker -- one I've been seeing for several years -- is drawn by none other than Mr. Barry himself. So when I found out that a bar in Deep Ellum had booked Barry for a Tuesday evening performance in March, I knew I had to be there...
We arrived in early enough for dinner, and got to the Prophet Bar just as the doors were opening. First on stage was a local act, the Driftin' Outlaw Band. Their brand of high-octane, high-velocity country reminded me of Speedtrucker. The Driftin' Outlaws knocked out a mix of original songs and cover tunes, the highlight of which was " ".
Up next was Ninja Gun, an alt-rock act from Valdosta, Georgia. Their sound reminded me of the Connells, , or maybe the -- listener-friendly, mostly up-tempo alt-rock with a slight blend of punk and country elements, nothing too heavy. I liked them enough to buy one of their cd's after the show.
Finally, Tim Barry took the stage, wearing a black "Conrail Twitty" tribute t-shirt. Surveying the sparse crowd, he quickly deduced that the audience would benefit from a more intimate performance. He unplugged and climbed down from the stage to perform his first song, "Idle Idyllist", on the floor, as the crowd formed a circle around him. In 20-plus years of seeing live music, this was one of the coolest concert experiences I've ever witnessed.
Barry returned to the stage for the remainder of his performance, except for "Church of Level Track", when he again joined the crowd on the floor....
Joining the crowd for an up-close performance. The small crowd brought to mind a concert t-shirt slogan I remember from long ago: "Did you miss ______ (fill-in-the-blank)? Then you f*cked up!" Miss L and I were proud to say that we did NOT miss Tim Barry.
Barry's voice wasn't in great shape, and he apologized profusely for the hand injury which hindered his guitar-playing abilities (he had injured it in a fight a few weeks earlier). We thought we might even get an opportunity to see his fighting skills for ourselves; a tense moment developed when an obnoxious member of the crowd yelled an obscene remark between songs. Barry put him in his place, though, and the guy shut the hell up.
But overall, it was one of the more enjoyable shows I've been to in a while. It was great to hear of some of my favorite songs of his -- and we even had a few minutes to talk before he started his set. On stage or off, Barry came across as one of the most honest and genuine people you could ever hope to meet. Like me, you might have missed out on Avail. But you don't have to miss out on his solo stuff.
Coming next: beginning another road trip...
np: BaD Radio on KTCK 1310 "the Ticket"