Freedom is more vital than a job. I'm 35-years-old and I don't work worth a shit, but I'm free as a motherfucker. And now I'm playing country music.- Tim Barry
Having paved the way for politically-charged Southern hardcore as frontman for Richmond, VA's Avail, Tim Barry recently embarked on a solo career drawing on influences of traditional Southern music like country, folk, and singer-songwriter styles.
This DVD was filmed live in London, as Barry was joined with La Par Force for both the first five songs of his own performance and their own set.
La Par Force is a German four-piece who perform their songs in English. Their female-fronted rock approach seemed to try for an all-encompassing genre including post-punk, indie, and alternative. Songs like "The Last" and "Ashes" show the band's potential, but the overall outcome is not much more than indifference on my part. "My Better Half" features melodic guitar playing and soothing singing on the lovelorn tune. The muddy audio recording also doesn't do much for the band, who probably sound much better on studio recordings.
As previously stated, La Par Force joins Barry several times on stage during his set, beginning with "Sagacity Gone." The auxiliary musicians serve a welcome addition, especially when La Par Force singer/guitarist Christina Hoidn steps behind the accordian for "Ain't Right Sure." One of the only times the ensemble doesn't work is in "No News from the North," one of my favorite Tim Barry songs, which suffers from poor audio quality on the recording due to the microphones on the bass drum. Barry also performs a nice solo acoustic cover of "Fall Apart," an Avail song written by guitarist Joe Banks. "Gumshoe Andy" (again joined by La Par Force) is one of the better full-band songs that features Christina playing some great slide guitar. Barry closes the set with fan-favorite "Idle Idylist," which is unfortunately degraded in sound quality by the deep bass line that doesn't exist in the studio version.
Throughout his set, Barry peppers his commentary with Southern jargon and a stereotypically uncouth demeanor. I'm not sure if he was being ironic, putting on a stage face, or if he'd had a few beers in him, but his commentary is certainly a curious routine to say the least. While talking about meeting La Par Force in their "Bavarian village," he says "No speakin' ze Deutsch. No entiendo. I mean, shit, that's Spanish, ain't it? It all makes a turd." Other outlandish quotes include "I wrote this fuckin' song in New Jersey. Has anyone ever been to New Jersey? [crowd cheers] Oh, Jesus fucking Christ. I'm from the former capital of the Confederacy. People like us don't like New Jersey" and "Where we're from you call people 'Bama' if they're from Alabama, you call âem 'Carolina' if they're from North Carolina. You call âem Caroline if they're from South Carolina. There's no discrepancy." Is this really true? Is Richmond, Virginia really that different than the Midwest, or was Barry exaggerating for the Brits?
However loutish some parts of his talking time may have seemed, it's easily apparent how nice and thoughtful of a person he is. This is especially evident when reflecting on the upper-class urbanization of his community in Richmond, and its effects on the working class people who are forced out and into trailer parks and homelessness as immortalized in his song "Ain't Right Sure."
It's really strange for me being a huge Avail fan to not be as totally into Barry's solo work as I am with Avail. But the same has been true for me of Mike Park, John K. Samson, Jeff Ott and Joe Strummer before the Mescaleros. I love all their work with their original bands, but apparently I'm a whore to electricity. The social and political messages that I like in their songs are all still there, but to go from energetic punk music to acoustic is no small transition. As a fan I respect musicians who return to musical roots in the form of acoustic guitars; it's simply not my cup o' tea, though.
If you liked Tim Barry's debut full-length solo outing Rivanna Junction, you will probably enjoy this DVD. Although the sound quality isn't up to par with what should be expected of a professional live recording, Barry's ongoing commentary, storytelling and likable personality are something that you won't get without a live recording, and this DVD is a fine place to start.