Folksy, bluesy, toe-tappy duo

If you remember 1205 West Main, or music reporting written under a fowl-based pseudonym, you know Stephen Barling.

The first, an ill-fated building that once housed the Main Street Guitar and Drum Shop, was razed by Marriott Hotels in the late '90s. Stephen, a co-owner (and familiar face behind the counter), couldn't find another affordable address within campus walking distance. The customers were mostly student bands and musicians; after the lease ran out, the business was doomed. Today, the only undergrads trafficking that block are Honk-for-Living-Wagers.

Stephen resurfaced several years later, reviewing concerts for another weekly under the name Cripsy Duck. His noble attempts at anonymity were eventually abandoned. This is a small town, after all.

However, many people still don't know that he's been playing his own songs for years, often at weekly gigs with his longtime friend and cellist Brandon Collins. Billed in the papers as B.C., the two have been described before as "ragtimey," "eclectic," and "irreverent." They often experiment with folksy-bluesy structures, and always inject variation in their standards.

Stephen's lyrics are Costello clever, yet skip the misanthropic moping. No heartbreakers ever left him high and dry for long. At times, it almost seems as if his words seek out a natural melody of their own, one that follows the cadence of everyday conversation. It's fun and inspired stuff... at times rowdy and a little rough around the edges, like the shoulder-grabbing singalongs of the Replacements.

My favorite, "Party Dress," is a blusher of a number, with a foot-tapping chorus.

I saw B.C. Tuesday night, October 15, at Tokyo Rose, and then again briefly on Thursday, October 17, at the Virginian. Of the two establishments, Tokyo Rose seems to be the environment better-suited to their music.

People requested songs, regular fans showed, and applause could be expected after every song. At the Virginian, it was $2 draft night; if anybody had come to see the band, they tried very hard not to show it. Craning my neck over the roller coaster row of booths and tuning out the beertalk chatter (proportionally increasing in inanity and volume) gave me a headache.

I've concluded the duo either has a Vulcan mind connection or well-rehearsed system of imperceptible cues. They're on target, every time, together or in trade-off solos. Try catching B.C. early in the week. The experience is well worth it.