“Do you want to cover the dude from the Spin Doctors?” my editor emails me.
It’s an inside joke here at Surviving the Golden Age that whenever a nostalgia act hits the area that I get first dibs. From Fastball to Smash Mouth, Barenaked Ladies to Spacehog, I’m in. To this day, whenever our editor and I hear “Fly” by Sugar Ray, we text each other in remembrance of that ridiculous Summerfest tour we attended in Newport. Maybe it’s because that was the time when I was fully immersed in music, but I won’t deny my musical guilty pleasures. Admittedly, when I attended a Chris Barron show last year at Cafe 9, I was going into it with maudlin glasses on. I couldn’t have been more pleasantly surprised. Barron put on my favorite performance from 2017 and his return to New Haven was just as impactful.
The audience in attendance on the dreary mother’s day afternoon was treated to a live play through of Barron’s 2017 release Angels and One-Armed Jugglers. Despite joking that playing your “new shit” was the fastest way to make people leave your show, Barron forged on. Armed only with an acoustic guitar and self deprecating humor, Barron takes breaks to address the audience. When he veered off track during any particular oration, the audience would jokingly remind him of the original point to the story. No one seemed to mind; at most points of the performance, the audience was consumed with hysterical laughter. With a self described set of seven minutes of actual music and 49 minutes of talking, Barron is sarcastic and astute. Nothing from his past is off limits and he pokes just as many jokes at himself as he does at others. Between the humor, there is a deep connection to the audience. He steps away from the microphone while playing instrumental bits and makes eye contact with everyone in the room. Not just in the way that a singer fixes his eyes on a point in the back of the room, but honest to goodness connection with his audience. It’s a powerful and humbling experience and one that I’ve sorely missed.
The encore starts off with a few Spin Doctors songs with a sarcastic note that all it took to be a hard core Spin Doctor’s fan was to buy the second album. Barron approaches these songs with just as much enthusiasm and fondness as his new work and is rewarded with the typical vehement applause those guilty pleasure songs evoke. For his last song, Barron steps off the stage and requests that everyone in attendance gather around him. It’s an intimate moment that can’t be put into words, and that’s not just my reticence to write about music talking. Small shows at local haunts can have a more lasting impact, so get out there an appreciate them while you can. And hey, go check out that dude from that band, even if you’re going for misanthropical reasons. You might just end up being pleasantly surprised.