The Bacon Brothers Sizzle
Acclaimed actor Kevin Bacon and his big brother, renowned film and TV composer Michael, do not care what gets you to Infinity Hall when they return as the Bacon Brothers on Monday, March 25. (The performance will be filmed for CPTV.) “If people come out because they want to see what color socks Kevin has on,” Michael says, “we’re fine with that. Because generally they leave knowing that we’re very committed to a live show and we’re committed to entertaining people as best we can.”
“If you’re asking people to pay to come out and see a show,” Kevin says, “you better not be a joke.”
Coming up on eighteen years, six CDs, and forty gigs annually, the Bacon Brothers are no joke. Kevin’s a versatile guitarist/vocalist and snake-hipped front man, while multi-instrumentalist Michael’s credentials include touring the country in the 1970s, releasing major label solo albums, and even playing the Isle of Wight festival (“in front of 250,000 cranky hippies”). As Kevin, nine years younger, rose to icon status, even becoming a parlor game, Michael’s music was appearing in commercials, series, and specials. In 2010, in fact, he garnered an Emmy for the HBO documentary Teddy: In His Own Words.
It’s no surprise that the Bacons’ childhood home was a hotbed of music and art. Their dad, famed urban planner Edmund Bacon (his esteemed Design of Cities is still in print and he made it onto the cover of Time at the moment of its publication), and liberal activist mom encouraged artistic endeavors over academics. Natural born ham Kevin — the youngest of six — apparently needed little persuasion. At age ten, he threw his hat in the ring with a self-penned lyric entitled “All the World Looks Lonely,” which his big brother set to music. A partnership was born. Michael bought Kevin a guitar and tried to turn his little brother “into the next Michael Jackson,” but Kevin’s success on stage and screen intervened, and plans to join the Everlys, the Bellamys, and the Gallaghers as a brother act were scuttled. However, the Bacons never stopped writing songs together. In 1994, a friend heard a demo, booked them into a Philadelphia club, and people liked what they heard. What began as an acoustic duo one-off evolved into a tight-knit touring and recording band delivering what the New Yorker describes as “sharply executed rock that has a blue-collar, rootsy edge.”
Will they play “All the World Looks Lonely” at Infinity Hall? They both laugh. In other words: hell, no. What they will perform are selections from their catalog. “It is a catalog now,” Kevin says, with some wonderment. Are there any tunes they never tire of? Again, the Bacons laugh. Says Kevin, “There’s songs we can put in the set and we know people are gonna like it, something easily accessible, crowd pleasers. But that doesn’t mean we don’t get tired of playing them. Part of what we do for our own mental health is to change the set up. We’re always thinking of it as a moving organism. We can investigate something we haven’t played before. It wakes us up, and makes us start listening to each other and gets us more focused. It’s a really good thing for the band.”
Another way they keep things fresh is by inviting fans to collaborate. The official video for their Philly soul nugget “Go My Way (The iPod Song)” features charmingly lo-fi, crowd-sourced footage of fans dancing at home, in parking lots, and at the car wash, spliced in with a longjohns-clad Kevin drinking coffee and singing. For the current tour, Michael came up with the idea of inviting fans to contribute lyrics to an unfinished hard luck anthem entitled “Tape It Up.” Fans can listen to the demo and email lyrics (you can do so HERE) and the Bacons choose the best ones and insert them into the song.
“The fun thing about ‘Tape It Up’ is it’s different every night,” Michael says. “I give my brother credit for being very restless. He gets bored with stuff. So we’re always trying to come up with something new. It’s a challenge, but it’s been fun for us.”
Therein lies one of the reasons to check these guys out. Neither Michael nor Kevin need to perform as the Bacon Brothers, but every gig is a challenge, and people who see challenges as fun are always a good bet. —Robert Burke Warren
The Bacon Brothers
Infinity Music Hall
Monday, March 25, 8 p.m.
20 Greenwoods Road West