My first foray into the Gordon Free Band’s music came when I discovered a copy of its album, SuperConscious, lying around SFR’s office. Curious, I popped it on to get a taste. I cued the CD to a track titled “Revolution (Obama Radio Edit)” to see what an Obama radio edit might possibly be. The song begins with a speech delivered by Obama as a guitar slowly builds in the background.
“Good lord!” I thought. “He must be joking.” Nope. What must have been an earnest attempt at an inspirational track came off as a ploy to draw listeners in amid the fervor of Obama’s popularity. When the forced, cheesy, faux-gravelly vocals began to sing about generosity and forgiveness, I stopped the album and put something good on to get the bad taste out of my mouth.
I played the song for several friends in the following weeks, and each time the reaction was the same—“Gimme a break!”
Now, I am the first to admit that some bands are better live than recorded (and vice versa), so with an open mind, I went to see the Gordon Free Band for myself at Cowgirl on Nov. 4. The first several songs I saw were a bit sloppy; presumably because there were not many people watching, and that never helps a band get pumped. In fact, most people were openly trying to carry on conversations over the music. A musician myself, I realize how frustrating this can be, so I applaud Free and his band for at least trying to seem excited. However, a good attitude doesn’t magically transform boring music into something worthwhile.
Perhaps the songs would have been relevant 10 or so years ago, back when Matchbox Twenty reigned and John Mellencamp made that blessedly brief comeback. But as I struggled to pin a word or feeling to the moment, I realized I had nothing in my lexicon that would properly convey just how goofy this performance was. Free rhymed a word with the exact same word on several occasions and had one song that, as far as I could tell, was simply a list of American states.
The set went on and on, and Free and company entered Hootie and the Blowfish territory—awful mid-’90s-esque mall-pop. I often listen to the music as I walk through Walgreens and wonder who writes this stuff, and why. Now I know who (but not why).
To the Gordon Free Band’s credit, each musician was actually very talented, Free included. To a certain extent, solid musicianship can mask an otherwise unremarkable project, and there were definitely moments in which some promise shone through. Sadly, though, Free projected a kind of Bon Jovi wannabe persona that far overshadowed his backup, and had me seeing him as someone who clings desperately to a dream that may as well have faded ages ago.
I looked around for someone with whom I could possibly commiserate. No such luck. Thankfully, I’d suckered a friend into coming out and suffering with me, though I doubt he’ll take my calls in the future.