B Is For Back This Week

With a club scene starting to evolve at The Clermont in Woodstock, it seemed an appropriate moment to dip into the pervading atmosphere to gauge the cast of its musical drift. The place had been packed for the prior weekend's festivities, I'd heard, so I set sail by calling friends I thought might like to check out this young season's nightlife.

Last minute calls often solicit polite declines from calender-carriers but I knew Fussface didn't pack a date book so his was the number I kept coming back to as I collected apologies from more deliberate acquaintances. Busy all day.

"I wasn't on the phone," he claimed when I finally got through. "That was probably the trunk lines being tied up with a clamor of corporate executives trying to reach public officials to be first in line to donate their spare time to clean up their neighborhoods, man day care centers, help in any way they can to further America's volunteer free labor movement."

"Okay," I grimaced, expecting something like this. I asked if he was up to dropping into the town's new music venue for a group called BBoyz and he wanted to know why. Was it curiosity? Did I know how much of mankind's energies are devoted to satisfying that impulse? People think everything is a mystery, he huffed. People are absolutely mystified as to why a seemingly typical top gun pilot would break formation in his A-10 ground-attack plane and smash into a mountain in far-off Vail, Colorado but Fussface, with a minimum of effort and a process of elimination, was able to determine the cause of the crash without leaving his armchair.

"Oh?" was all I could muster. Sure, he said. The key was Vail. This was obviously another Charlie Manson mind-control attempt at getting Gerald Ford. "I see," I said with my eyes tightly closed and told him I just thought he might like to get out and enjoy some music. He said he'd meet me there.

BBoyz is a 5-piece ensemble that specializes in reviving the tingle of impressions left by yesteryear's AM-radio waves. The group's core is cousins Barry Jackson on keyboards and vocals and singing guitarist Barry Lindsay. But having two Barrys didn't contribute to the group's name, Jackson explained. B is for "busy" as in how they try to stay.

"We're a dance band; we're a party band. We play baptisms, bar mitzvahs," elaborated Jackson as I, caught up in the b-word spirit, suppressed an urge to add baby showers, barn-raisings, bachelor bashes, bacchanals; stop me now. "We play to have a good time."

Jackson, a once upon a time roadie who tired of hauling everyone else's equipment, has performed with acts like James Cotton, Jerry Moore, Coming Generation and others; teaming with Lindsay in prior groups like Panda and Pandemonium. Lindsay, who makes ample, measured use of his wah-wah pedal, has worked with area acts like The Whamazines, John Hall and Something Funky.

The group's solid rhythmic base is anchored on the smooth, gliding bass notes of Tom Cahill, the understated thunder of Mike Minervini and the percussional accents of harmonizer Hazelle Hough. With the exception of Lindsay's exotic instrumental "In the City," the cuisine was a selection from cover stock in flavors that prompt a low-key sing-along tinge and an amazement that you still know the words. The trick is to find tunes familiar enough to put the dancers at ease but not so routine that they're worn through and this, from a repertoire of some 90 songs, the BBoyz had a grip on. "Feelin' Alright," "Shakey Ground," a superb take on "Sarah," "Wild Night," "Takin' It to the Streets," and other common dance band standards flowed out with the inevitable "Mustang Sally."

Actually, I have witnessed a Woodstock set which didn't include this last tune and afterward approached the group to find out what had happened. "We save it for the last set," deadpanned the third cellist.

BBoyz launch into their material intent on hitting grooves in their sometimes meaty extensions. What pushes them beyond the pedestrian is a keen sense of restraint; knowing just what plateau to edge it to before drawing back; rising to just the appropriate level and rocking you off without rocking you out then taking you home without your head hitting a single wall along the way. This lean grace applies to Jackson and Lindsay's vocals as well as their playing.

There was a broad range of age groups present and more than a few inspired to glissade the dance floor. The younger entries were more dexterous, as you might expect, some managing the Wrigley's oral exercise concurrently with the sipping of a Tom Collins.

A guest horn section didn't show for the first set and neither did Fussface. Maybe they stopped off at his place on the way, just to satisfy some morbid curiosity. Maybe they'll show up together this Saturday for the third of the BBoyz's trio of bookings at the Clermont. After that the quintet moves on to other gigs. B, you see, is for "bookings."

-Irv Yarg