Last week I had the opportunity to see A.A. Bondy at the New Parish in Oakland, which “might be the best venue in the world”, says Bondy himself after getting a taste of complementary BBQ. The show opened with JBM (aka Jesse Merchant) who sings honest and introspective folk songs stripped down to a solo performance with a loop pedal, a small drum kit, guitar and harmonica. JBM lures the audience in with confidence in simplicity, using a loop pedal only enough to support the song and never trying to prove anything.
After JBM, A.A. Bondy stormed the stage and tuned his guitar behind some drone music and then left. “interesting” said the New Parish sound guy who was relieved of his duties to make way for A.A. Bondy’s man who couldn’t seem to get a low humming sound that seriously peeved Bondy. But once the sound was cleared up it didn’t seem to clear everything up for ol’ A.A. Bondy who continually played around with different pedals and seemed to be experimenting something new on every song. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anyone who can make more sounds come out of a hollow body electric than him.
A.A. Bondy was joined by a bass player/keyboardist and a pedal steel/drummer. When the band kicks it into high gear the energy is gritty and pulsing with Bondy cranking distortion on his guitar. He had a good mix of soft pickin’ and singin’ and kick ass blue collar grind your face to the pavement Rock. A little whiskey added to the fire and Bondy was a huge presence on stage.
But A.A. Bondy is not satisfied, and it’s a good thing. He never sang a line the same as the record or played a note the same. He seems restless on the stage constantly trying to discover something new about the music and when he’s happy about the result the audience eats it up like fried turkey.