Barefoot Manner, Yo Mommas Big Fat Booty Band and Monkey Navigated Robots, Lincoln Theater, Raleigh, NC- 12/31
The busload of Booty Band and Barefoot Manner fans and revelers that swamped Raleigh’s Lincoln Theater after 10PM on New Year’s Eve missed out on a special musical treat. Comprised of Hank Smith on banjo, bassist Leo Kishore, percussionist Rob Girardin and Mike Babyak on vertical and horizontal guitar, Monkey Navigated Robots opened the night with an impressive early set. Although they’ve only played a handful of dates since forming in 2006, these guys are all veteran musicians in the Raleigh/Durham jam scene. Hank and Leo make up half of Barefoot Manner and Rob comes most recently from Oblivious Action Figures. Lefty lead guitarist and vocalist Mike Babyak who formerly headed the Shapeshifters, is also the organizing force behind Triple Fret which has a rotating membership and draws the likes of Steve Kimock, Ben Palmer, Mike Rosado, Scott Sawyer and Jim Kost. The band opened with the haunting original “Voice in My Head” and followed up with “Hangup Your Hangups” (Herbie Hancock), fitting songs for a group led by a psychology-trained guitarist. They continued with “Sweet Life”, an original, socially conscious song that contrasts the lives of Dominican sugar cane workers with those that taste the fruits of their labor. “Flying Saucer Dudes” (Bela Fleck) was a new song to the group’s lineup. Leo’s tribute to Bob Barker, “Price Is Right Theme” was 8 minutes of mid-morning flashback. Their set concluded with another Babyak original, the Afro-Caribbean-World-beat tune, “Everybody's Africa” which is always a crowd pleaser with its climactic false ending and energetic reprise. With Barefoot Manner taking an extended break, Hank and Leo may now have lots of time for MNR.
Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band is the perfect band for NYE, although they appeared to be a little bounced out at the start of this final night of their exhausting end-of-2007 NC run. The NYE 2007’s cast was Josh Phillips on guitar, vocals and percussion, devil winged Al Ingram on bass and vocals, John Paul Miller (guitar and vocals), Grady Gilbert on guitar, Greg Hollowell on sax and vocals, Derrick Johnson on trombone and vocals, David Partin on drums, and Suzanna Baum on vocals. Sabrina Hilario projected well-coordinated visuals. The band opened with “Naked Girls Covered in Drugs”, a sing-a-long to the tune of Auld Lang Syne. Sadly, this was only a song tonight no bare naked booty like at the Neighbor Theater several nights earlier. The rhythmic “Cancion Del Fuego” was their first song of the night featuring a sultry sax solo. Suzanna took the lead and showed her stuff on “The Baumer.” The band, the audience, and the 90-minute set increased in stony energy and peaked with “That’s Right” and a raucous cover of the Beastie Boys’ “Fight for Your Right.” In honor of Barefoot Manner, the Booty Band did a well-intentioned, but never-before-played and somewhat slow, cover of Barefoot Manner’s “Airplane” with the lyrics written out on paper towel cheat sheets. Following the Midnight countdown, a combined Barefoot Booty Manner Band started 2008 with Stevie Wonder’s “I Wish.”
Barefoot Manner has put on a NYE show at the Lincoln Theater every year since 2002 (2001 was at the Pourhouse). To their fans' anguish, NYE has recently become a focal point of change for the band. In 2005 bass player Walt Hensey played his last regular show and Leo Kishore took over the duty. On NYE 2006 we saw another forming member guitarist David Kleiss retire. Sadly, NYE 2007 looks like the end of the road for BFM as they have announced a hiatus of indefinite length.
Following the Stevie Wonder cover with YMBFBB, Barefoot wasted no time getting into a the bluegrass mood with “Little Man” which led into the psychedelic “Pulse” featuring Hank Smith’s keyboard, Shawn’s electrified mandolin and Leo’s funky bass. Staying with the bluegrass/newgrass sound, they did “One More Round,” “Heard the Sound” and “Nervous Breakdown.” This was followed by “Roots" which has a trippy segment of bass and keys. Longtime Barefoot friend Myron Koch joined in on sax for “Happenstance” and “Mudhen.” Myron announced that his band Paradigm has just been signed by Ropeadope Records and has released their new album Melodies for Uncertain Robots. In “Coming to Grips,” Leo, Shawn and Hank traded licks between bass, mandolin and synthesizer. This led into “Al Qamar” and a 15 minute version of the “Pencil” song. Jeff Garland moved to the front with his washboard on “Wake Up”, a nostalgic sounding Dixieland/Ragtime sounding ditty. Genevieve Garland, Jeff’s wife, took center stage and clogged during “Lower on the Hog.” For those who don’t know her, Genevieve can be seen the clogging at most every Barefoot Show and she’s been responsible for the decorations, handouts, beads, rings, balloons, and cap guns fans have played with over the years. “Cool Breeze” was the last song of the regular set featuring the current Barefoot lineup.
Original Barefoot members Walt Hensey and Dave Kleiss came on for the encore and last bow. They played “Barefoot Blues” and ended with “NC Sunrise” featuring Dave on lead vocals and acoustic guitar. The crowd would’ve liked to hear “Airplane” one more time, but the night was late and the NC Sunrise was due in a few hours.