All over the world there is a deep and rich historical folk music legacy. American singer-songwriters such as Woodie Guthrie, Leadbelly, and Jean Ritchie would inspire later artists like Pete Seeger, Joan Baez, and Billy Bragg; who in turn lit a fire under artists like Frank Turner, Drag The River, and Ingrid Michaelson. These artists have written some of the most meaningful ballads and intense protest songs, easily relatable to the all passion-no rules attitude of punk rock music. Today, there are a plethora of revivals and revivalists carrying on the tradition as even locally grown artists like Kevin Seconds, David Houston, Kepi Ghoulie, and Ricky Berger can be heard within small clubs and coffeehouses, playing and singing some of the most honest and stripped down music there is. Stories are told in intimate settings of what these artists were doing to inspire a song or where they were in life when they wrote it, most often with an alert and attentive audience ready for the bearing of a person’s musical soul. On March 22nd at The Blue Lamp in downtown Sacramento, fans were lucky to be included on a short but deliberate tour headlined by Tim Barry, with Jenny Owen Youngs and Cory Branan playing support.
Tim Barry is, or was, best known as the front man for early 90’s hardcore band Avail, from Richmond, Virginia. Since 2004 he has been performing solo acoustic shows all over the world. He has also been a part of The Revival Tour; a collaborative acoustic event featuring several punk rock, bluegrass, and alt-country performers, conceptualized by lead singer of Hot Water Music, Chuck Ragan. Right from the start, he set the tone that a wide array of emotions would be felt that evening beginning with the upbeat outlaw attitude of “Dog Bumped”, as well as the heart wrenching “Church of Level Track”; two songs off one of his most popular albums, Rivanna Junction. Once he started singing he encouraged the crowd to sing along and they willingly became a choir. It is one of the greatest things about an acoustic show: a unhesitant but interested audience, empty of people talking loudly, giving the body of a song extra glow from respect and participation. Barry took notice and could not refrain from smiling like a child who just got his first guitar. The energy helped him loosen up, taking the mic stand into the crowd to not only hear, but also feel the energy coming from his loyal fans. He brings with him the intensity of fronting a hardcore punk rock band but transposes the physical rage into passionate verbal affection. He sang songs of a life’s journey; reflecting on good times and bad, pains of the heart and soul, but also songs of freedom a life on the road can afford a musical vagrant. He mentioned that although he is never happier than when on the road, he could not wait to get home to his family; exposing an inner tug of war of his heartstrings and deepening the meaning of his songs. He had no set list and chose to play whatever he felt at the moment but managed to span his catalogue, appeasing longtime fans as well as slipping in a few new songs from his 2014 album Lost and Rootless.
Midway through the set, Barry seemed to almost be overwhelmed by the love he was receiving from those who had waited patiently for his return to the West Coast as he declared, “After all the traveling and touring I’ve done in this life so far I’ve learned one thing, and that’s I’m not afraid of dying, I’m afraid of not living. No matter what’s going on in your life or where it’s taking you, don’t be afraid of dying, be afraid of not living and live every goddamn day to it’s fullest!” The crowd, already having succumbed to his passion and charm, burst into a controlled frenzy before he began “Exit Wounds”, a confession of heartbreak, immortalized in song. To avoid any possible chance of requests for an encore, he asked the soundman to queue up some “loud ass music” to play immediately after his closing number, “Avoiding Catatonic Surrender”; a song that pleads with its listener but also declares Barry’s brutal yet beautiful heartfelt honesty.
As the evening came to a close, some filtered out the front door post-haste, on their way home to prepare for the coming work week; while others lined up at the merch table, eager to snag a record or hand screen-printed tour poster. A small amount of people waited to meet the man himself and get an autograph, though a few just wanted to swap stories. It was a show that felt more like a group of friends hanging out, singing songs around the campfire. And from start to finish it was what many would consider the perfect soundtrack for a Sunday evening in Sacramento.
To learn more about Tim Barry visit at www.timbarryrva.com
Words: Jordan Wolfe