Bob Log III
with Willem Maker,
9 p.m. Saturday, May 23
When someone dedicates himself to showmanship as completely as Arizona one-man band Bob Log III, it's an act of privation not to see him play live. Self-described as a "guitar party," the spectacle involves an Evel Knievel-style jumpsuit, a helmet that never comes off and vocals that sound like a bad phone connection with your hillbilly uncle. Even offstage, he speaks with a hammy Mitch Hedberg delivery.
Though one of the most iconic cult figures in music, the Bob Log idea was born in a relative instant. While on tour with his two-member band Doo Rag in 1996, Log's drummer bailed right before a big show in Chicago supporting Ween. In a heroic fit of Hail Mary improvisation, he developed the new act in the eight hours it took him to drive there. Though a fan of one-man bands like Jesse Fuller and Hasil Adkins, he admits, "It was never anything I'd tried or even considered until the moment where I was about to do it." But after his gamble got him laid that night, he knew he was onto a good thing.
Log's music is even more original than his getup. "When I was a kid, I got an AC/DC record," chuckles Log of the initial conceptual development of his character. "That's pretty much it right there."
In reality, the story's a bit deeper. He discovered the staunch blues traditionalism of Mississippi Fred McDowell and started learning slide guitar and finger picking at age 16. Screamin' Jay Hawkins and Bo Diddley followed close behind. As a disciple, Log's belief in the blues is nearly absolute. "It's where everything comes from," he says without hesitation. "There would be no rock & roll if it weren't for the blues."
But straight mimicry wasn't in him. "I'm not gonna get up on stage and play a Fred McDowell song exactly like Fred McDowell, 'cause he already did it," he says. "To get up there and try and do it exact … there are people that can do that and I think that's great. But that's never been something I could do. But, probably, it was a good thing that I couldn't."
In fact, his approach is the perfect antithesis to purism. Mashing together dazzling slide-guitar skills, punk primality and cartoonish backwater insanity, Log's thrillingly freakish music is like listening to a madman playing the Delta blues on a heat-warped cassette. It's a wildly experimental and absurdly brilliant take on the blues, and the attitude is where the story circles back to AC/DC. As he puts it, they're both just "takin' the blues and turnin' it into a party and puttin' on a funny suit and sweatin' your ass off."
"I'm just a different branch than the Fender Strat branch," Log says. "When I do play a blues festival, if there's 2,000 people there, I will make 500 friends. But there will be 1,500 people that are just irritated beyond belief."firstname.lastname@example.org