Too cool: BC strums, plucks, wows!

at Miller's
December 9

 Published December 11, 2003 in issue 30249 of the HOok

It's always amusing when people I talk to, hip people, the kind who are in on every inside joke, know all the latest trends and bands, and are virtual fashion plates, speak of their ignorance of the local cello-pop duo known as BC. I speak of my bewilderment because, for me at least, the band easily sits near the apex of my top -five bands in Charlottesville list, which is currently affixed by jack-knife to the back of my closet door (a bizarre ballpark giveaway night).

For the past few years the group has been performing at Tokyo Rose Tuesdays, and Miller's Sundays, keeping this constant schedule with a fan base composed of mostly constant members. BC at Miller's Sunday nights also happen to coincide with that establishment's $2 Bourbon and Coke spectacular, so most weeks, if I'm fit and up for a bit of chaff from acquaintances/BC fans, I can be found at that cozy establishment wiling away the hours before the new week.

Formed in 1996, the acoustic duo composed of Brandon Collins on cello and Stephen Barling on acoustic guitar and vocals, has built up quite a following of ridiculously devoted fans with a gigantic catalog of material, running the gamut from simple pop tunes with erudite and cutting lyrics to things a bit more helter-skelter (their song "American As Fuck" springs to mind).

Collins attended CHS and was a member of that institution's classical music program; before BC he played keys in Matthew Willner's original Full Flavor project. Barling came to Charlottesville in '85 to study architecture and was the guitarist/singer for what he describes as a "ska power trio" in college (called The Cows).

The group performs mostly originals, more often than not witty ditties that can fool you into complacency with their impressive grasp of the pop, until you recognize exactly what Barling is singing. The first tune on Sunday was a fine example of this dichotomy, a tight little number on which plucked cello provides the bass line (or cello line, to be exact), skating around Barling's guitar pluckings as he sings, "That's right, I'm looking at your girlfriend / That's right she's looking at me too / That's right I'm looking at your girlfriend / And I think she's kinda hot for me."

The group's set is almost one highlight after another, and after you check them out a few times you begin to have your favorites­ I'm partial to their cover of the jazz tune, "If You're A Viper," and I think seven or eight others are some of the finest examples of succinct songwriting I've heard west of the swinging '60s ("Orrin Hatch, stay the fuck out of my ganja patch" and "Ain't no deeper forest / Ain't no wrong side of the hill" being two of their lyrical catch-phrases).

You've had two chances a week to see BC for a while now, and if you haven't taken advantage of those opportunities, you can't lay claim to the claim of cool.