Bob Schneider is in a league of his own. Fearlessly prolific, he's a slick musician who can flip on a dime from a clean, conscious croon to a raw, rapid rhyme. For the better part of two decades, he has kept audiences on the edge of their seats -- first with ambitious acts such as Joe Rockhead and the Ugly Americans in the early- to mid-'90s; then and still with the raunchy punk-funk of the Scabs; and now with the sit-down-yet-rousing Lonelyland, the rag-tag revue of his Texas Bluegrass Massacre and the occasional solo acoustic gig.
Touring behind "The Californian" (Shockorama/Vanguard) -- his seventh solo release and 19th overall -- Schneider makes his Buffalo debut at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the Tralf, 622 Main St., flanked by superstar sidemen worth the price of admission on their own in Bruce Hughes (bass, vocals) and Jeff Plankenhorn (guitar, mandolin, lap steel, acoustic dobro, vocals) and no slouch on the skins in Fastball's Joey Shuffield. After a Monday solo set in his home base of Austin, Texas, that served as his last tune-up before a monthlong trek, Schneider took time to talk shop.
>Is it your mission to keep crowds on their toes, or does it come naturally?
It's all about entertaining -- whether it's stirring up an emotional connection or just trying to rock the house, the goal is to involve the audience as a whole. I've been doing it for so long, the only way to describe it is that we're going in to kill a chicken, but we're not just bringing a knife or a slingshot. We're coming in with grenades, bazookas, air missiles -- everything we've got -- and we're goin' into the shack to blow it up.
>How much confidence do you get from having guys like Bruce and Plank at your side?
Having guys of that caliber onstage, you feel pretty invincible -- like anything I feel like doing, we can do. I could call out "Roseanna," by Toto, and they can play it. I don't know it, but I'm sure they do. It gives me absolute freedom to do whatever I have to to entertain the audience.
I mean [laughs], I don't know about "Roseanna" -- I've never called it out, but I guarantee you I could and they'd know it.
>Are your songs as stream-of-consciousness as they come off?
Usually I do what Randy Newman does, which is to invent a character, become that character and let their story unfold in the song. I get bored with the same thing over and over, so I try to make it as diverse and interesting as possible -- musically and emotionally -- so that people walk away with the idea that they just had an experience.
I'd rather have them love it or not like it at all -- nothing middle-of-the-road. We're not really interested in maybe making the playoffs -- we want to win the Super Bowl.
-- Seamus Gallivan, Special to The News