Posted by: hankwillenbrink | September 19, 2008

REVIEW: Paul Baribeau and Good Luck at Skull Alley, Sept. 13

Paul Baribeau

When Paul Baribeau came to town earlier this summer, I previewed it on my other blog (We Listen For You) with a line I stole from a friend of mine:  “Paul Baribeau wants to make you cry.”  But, he was all smiles at Skull Alley on Saturday night, joking with the crowd, saying “This is the tour where I plug my guitar in.”  Someone in the audience yelled – “Bob Dylan goes electric!”  And Paul sheepishly responded – “Yeah he called me up.  He said ‘Paul, I’m tired.  I don’t want to be Bob Dylan anymore.  Why don’t you be me for a while?’  And I said, ‘Sure, Bob.'”  It was a semi-awkward concert moment for a couple reasons.  1) It’s a bit of a faux pas to equate someone with a guitar with Bob Dylan.  2) It was obvious that for a lot of the concert-goers, Baribeau is a Dylan-esque figure.

The DIY Folk Punk scene in this town skews young.  My one other experince with such a scene is in Fayetteville, AR and most of the folks who go to those shows are in their mid-20s or older.  At the show last night, it was a lot of high school kids with a small group of mothers tucked away, inconspicuously, in the corner.  I do not mean for this to demean or damper the crowd.  They were hardy and attentive, hanging on every word while singing along.  It reminded me of the tiny show space in the town where I grew up, slogging down every weekend night to hear another band from out of town, not sure with what you were going to get, but the beauty was it was a group of young people making something.

What do I mean when I say Baribeau is Dylan-esque?  Well, not that he sounds like Dylan.  I could throw out the tired old “voice-of-a-generation” bit, but that’s not accurate either.  The best way to explain it is that there is a certain reverence for Baribeau that you don’t see much.  As I was walking out, I saw him signing autographs.  When was the last time  you saw that at a DIY show?  Dylan’s folk songs were always macro.  About a generation, about a group of people.  Tunes like “Blowin’ in the Wind” asked rhetorical questions to a generation of universal characters — “How many roads must a man walk down?”  Baribeau’s songs are micro, personal, almost confessional.  And his position has earned a hard won reverence.  As Baribeau said between songs, “People listen to me now.  That’s recent.  It’s good to have 6 years of your life where people pretend you don’t exist.”  They were listening last night.  In the blistering, 9 song set there was hardly a lyric which was not sung by the audience.  This is what I mean by reverence–an audience taking care of songs as if they were their own, culled from their own life.

I do that with Baribeau’s music as well.  His lyrics are deceptively simple and nostalgic.  They’re about old friends, old bands, old girlfriends.  Things that aren’t around anymore that you miss.  Things that snake into your consciousness one day and wrap around your cerebelum.   “Falling in Love with Your Best Friend,” which he didn’t play, is a prime example:  “I heard a song once / About falling in love with your best friend / I’d give about anything to hear that song again / Last summer I was singing along with my favorite band / Every word they’d scream was neon green / And I already knew I’d fallen apart.”  Musically, Baribeau doesn’t dwell on these thoughts, though.  His guitar playing is fast and unrelenting, like he wants to mull the whole thing over but he’s gotta keep it uptempo, he’s gotta move down the road.  It’s hard not to connect it to your own life, or empathize at the very least.  The deliciously sweet “Strawberry” probes at the hidden emotions under words, exploring the difficulty of trying to express what you really want to express:  “To say that you are cute / would be like saying a strawberry is sweet / because a strawberry has secret flavors / which are sharp and tart and red and deep.”  It’s devistatingly honest, terribly sincere, undescribably earnest.  In short, it’s the kind of things that make you want to cry.  Standing on the raised stage, with his guitar plugged in, Baribeau looked out.  Here was a guy who has been playing in houses, in parks, on the floor, to a bunch of kids for years.  And standing above us he addressed the awkwardness of the whole thing.  “It feels weird being on this stage.  Weird in a good way.  Weird like I’ve finally made it.  And where do I go from here?  A bigger stage I guess.  Not wider.  Just taller.”  Popularity, for the DIY artist, is a tricky beast.  If you’re popular it’s hard to do-it-yourself anymore.  You need bigger stages.  If Baribeau ever “makes it,” let’s hope he opts for the taller stage, not a bigger one.  And that we can all still sing along.

Paul Baribeau – Strawberry

Paul Baribeau – Falling in Love with Your Best Friend

Good Luck

“You’re going to see this band, next, called ‘Good Luck,'”  Paul Baribeau informed us.  “And the guy who plays guitar in it used to be a really bad drummer.”  Baribeau smirked, as the ex-drummer, current-guitarist sat next to him on the stage.  Good Luck is a posi-core (that’s short for “positive-core,” scenester) trio out of Bloomington comprised of Matt Tobey, Ginger Alford, and Mike Harpring Jr.  In the 90s when bands like The Promise Ring were making their way, a band named “Good Luck” on tour with them would probably be an ironic “good luck.”  This trio is anything but.  They’re all good vibrations and energy.  If you get a second, I suggest you check out their homepage which features nothing besides well wishes, religious figures, rabbits feet, and Patrick Stewart.

Good Luck makes a lot of sound for a trio.  And their stage energy reinforces each driving syllable of the song.  They paused between tunes to figure out what to play next.  You could tell they loved playing together.  I hadn’t heard of them prior to the show, so my limited interaction was with the MySpace recordings for their first album Into Lake Griffy. The recordings do some justice to the songs, but overall the show was more well-defined and feverish than the mp3s let on.  For one thing, there’s a certain amount of slop that you expect out of a punk-ish trio.  The slop is half the fun.  And despite that you could tell that Good Luck had shit together musically.  The slop was, well slop, but didn’t take away from the well-crafted songs.  It was more the result of show exuberance rather than ham-handed musicality.  Thank God the ex-drummer put down the sticks and picked up a Stratocaster, because his guitar work was impecable.  He finger tapped through verses and texured the songs rather than taking indescresionary guitary solos.  It was a raucous, down home positive punky affair.

Good Luck – Sleep with No Bad Dreams

Good Luck – Public Radio

Post Script

Skull Alley is a pretty damn fine venue.  Sure, it’s a little hot.  Sure, you can’t get a beer there.  Sure, I’ve had to tell people where it is 5 times.  But from the quality of acts and the quality of space, you can do a lot worse than Skull Alley.  A while back a friend and I were discussing how Louisville’s show infrastructure isn’t set up to help develop local acts.  And while I find that’s the case in general, it’s great to see Skull Alley take interest and provide a space for smaller indie acts to play and prosper.  Not everyone can play Headliners.  Skull Alley is a great place to see shows was a fantastic venue for Baribeau and Good Luck.

More pics below the break…

Pics of Paul:

Pics of Good Luck:



  1. thanks for the great write up! i’m glad you enjoyed the show. I think you’re the first person to think it was too hot, most have said it was too cold! That’s why I didnt turn the AC up higher that night. :)

    We’re still finding that balance I guess.

    And yes, one day we will have a sign. We’ve been prioritizing buying better sound gear and such before we get that taken care of.

  2. This was one of my favorite shows I’ve seen in Louisville in a long time. I have a feeling we will all be hearing a lot more about Good Luck in the near future.

  3. better sound gear > a sign

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