clem snide [2009]

Bottom of the Hill
San Francisco, CA
8 April 2009

I don’t want to get a reputation for being sandwich-obsessed, but at Bottom of the Hill tonight, the saga continued.

A mere five days after complaining about the discarded PB&J, five days after cautiously embracing the grilled cheese, I came to find tonight that now the grilled cheese itself is gone.

New menu. No grilled cheese. I was left speechless. For a few seconds. Then I asked a polite version of “what the fuck?”

Thankfully, Tim, the same gentle soul from Friday night, was behind the counter. He thoughtfully explained that Management had switched the menu up in an attempt to “legitimize” things. (I had no idea what this meant, but apparently, it has something to do with being an All Ages venue. One might then ask why removing an American standard would jeopardize one’s legal status, but then again, one might just decide to keep one’s mouth shut).

But Tim assured me that he would always be willing to cook up an illegitimate grilled cheese sandwich upon request. Blessed Tim.

I haven’t seen some friends in four years. It can be awkward, that first time back together – so much to cover – so many questions. You feel like you never actually get to really talk, what with all the catching up.

Clem Snide had, until recently, been broken up for 4 years, and before the show, I’d wondered what the reunion must have been like. Had to have been pretty awkward.

And then the band took the stage tonight and…it appeared that lead Eef Barzelay had gone and conjured up an entirely new Clem Snide. A good way, I suppose, to avoid the awkward.

Eef, new drummer and new bassist. Clem Snide in name only. Strange.

I’ve loved Clem Snide for over ten years. I’ve loved Eef Barzelay as a solo act for the past four. But now, I must admit that I’m not sure who they are. I miss the raw, rambunctious old Clem Snide. I miss the simple solo singer-songwriter Barzelay.

In some ways, the seeming homage to Clem Snide opener, The Heligoats, captured more of the old Clem Snide spark than their heroes.

The wit and the playfulness were there. The alt-country swing was in effect. But the spark was often missing amidst the extended jams and meandering quasi cover-epilogues.

Oddly enough, the band came together most enthusiastically and successfully for Lose Big, a song from Barzelay’s solo days.

I’m pretty sure there’s meaning in that. I’m just not sure what it is.