When I walked through the front door of The Hobby Shop, I was expecting to find a small crowd milling around inside a record store. Instead, I was met instead by an incredibly cozy, wood-paneled recording studio. There was just enough room for two rows of people to stand and still leave a reasonable walking path between the audience and the band, whom were lit warmly by tiny lights hanging off their mic stands. Beyond them was the booth, and beyond that was a beautiful backyard.
The space shouldn’t be the star of this review, but if The Hobby Shop does bring this weekly concert series back in August, you’re going to want to check it out. Besides the fact that it feels like watching a show in a really hip humidor, the perk of going to a show in a recording studio is that each attendee receives a digital copy of the show, delivered via e-mail.
The whole thing felt very homey, with the proprietor, Andrew “Mudrock” Murdock, revealing he’d heard every band in the series play, with the exception of the night’s opener, Woolen, whom he’d booked off the strength of their sort-of-sister-band, Random Patterns. That was okay, though, since I had. Woolen is one of my favorite local bands and they’re incredibly flexible live. Their sets can emphasize the proggy, 90s-influenced side or take you into wavering, twang-tinged bliss. They leaned toward the latter and were accompanied by a steel guitar. The set was more fluid and serendipitous as a result of breaking from the standard line-up, which probably led to the inclusion of a song frontman Paris Patt claimed he hadn’t decided on the lyrics for yet. Come to think of it, they did the same thing when I saw them a number of months ago, so this might just be a long running joke. Truth or fiction, the steel guitar player adapted admirably and it sounded just as polished as the rest of their material.
The aesthetic choice was logical given the stripped-down quality of a lot of Barlow’s solo material and the smaller space, but didn’t pan out completely in terms of matching the headliner. Barlow came out with more force than I had anticipated, backed by Mike Watt’s Missingmen, Tom Watson and Raul Morales. Strummy acoustic numbers like Emoh’s “Round-n-Round” became full bodied rockers in the trio’s hands and there were brief moments where they veered off and flirted with the stoner-rock elements of Dinosaur Jr. that always made me slightly uncomfortable. (Read: bored.)
In a neat twist, Imaad Wasif, who played with Barlow on Emoh and in The New Folk Implosion, was also in attendance. There was a great moment where Watson mentioned how weird it was to be playing Wasif’s own parts back to him, which led to musings on a word that could function as, “Thank you,” and, “Sorry,” simultaneously. Verdict: “Sorry,” with a lisp, or, “Thorry.” My verdict: no apologies necessary; fans and musicians should enjoy hearing old songs in a new way.