There are three things that make me very happy: 1) good tight harmonies, 2) smart comedy, and 3) The Bobs, a vocal group that combines the first two. The a cappella quartet played Saturday, October 12, 2013 to a warm reception at The Barns of Wolf Trap. They have been described as Manhattan Transfer meets Monty Python, Robin Williams meets Bobby McFerrin, and Johann Sebastian Bach meets Jimi Hendrix.
The Bobs are a fun, inventive group who can do a broad range of musical genres. This is definitely not your grandfather’s a cappella group. Although they have been around since 1981, their instrument-free songs include a rap song about Julia Child’s height (“Julia’s Too Tall”), a tango about the challenge of easily getting your cell phone free from a pocket of pants that are too tight (“Tight Pants Tango”), and a song about Mozart’s scandalous librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte, set to music by Mozart.
The Bobs are touring in support of their just-released album, Biographies, that includes songs about a disparate group of famous (and less than famous) historical people including Jackie Gleason, Valentina Tereshkova, Elwood Decker, Lord Buckley, Hedy Lamarr, Clarence Birdseye, and Andy Kaufman. You get extra points if you know who all of those people are.
In addition to songs from the new album, the concert also featured songs from earlier albums. One of the many crowd favorites was “Helmet,” a song that will stay with you, in a good way. The lyrics are less than transcendent but it’s hard not to be happy as the frothy lyrics and bubbly tune run through your mind, “Come try my helmet on. Nothing will do you wrong. If they would only try just once to wear a helmet. The world would soon be a better place”
I first came across The Bobs back in the 80s in San Francisco. Matthew “Bob” Stull (who is still one of the foursome) is a co-founder. Bass singer Richard “Bob” Greene soon joined the group and was followed by a 1984 Grammy Award nomination for their unique cover of The Beatles’ Helter Skelter. In addition to Matthew and Richard, the group includes Dan “Bob” Schumacher who studied jazz and opera before joining the group ten years ago and the newest Bob, Angie “Bob” Doctor, a soprano alum of a number of vocal jazz groups, who despite her two-year tenure with the group, is still learning songs in the group’s sizable repertoire of more than 200 songs. And yes, they all list Bob as a middle name..
The show was refreshing and it felt like we were hanging out with friends who were just having a great time. When a lyric was forgotten, they stopped, laughed at themselves, made a joke, and started again. They cracked each other up with what seemed to be unscripted jokes and consequently we the audience cracked up too. They recognized an audience member’s birthday, had a friend of a donor who supported their Kickstart Campaign come on stage and sing with them—he was quite good, by the way—and they staffed their swag table in the lobby both during intermission and following the show.
In the midst of the government shutdown that has black clouds hanging over the entire DC metro region, it’s a great relief to see an affordable show in an intimate venue that offered laughter, joy, and a talented foursome.
Running Time: Two hours, with one intermission.
The Bobs played one night only on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at The Barns at Wolf Trap – 1635 Trap Road, in Vienna, VA. For future performances and Information: Call 1(877) WOLFTRAP (877) 965-3872), or check their calendar of events.
The Bobs website.