The Bob Band: Sid Vicious meets Waylon Jennings for a cage match

News-DemocratJuly 10, 2013 

So this group of country punk rockers walks into a bar. One of them quits and gets the band named after him.

That's the punchline for The Bob Band.

Its members play country music with punk rock attitude.

"There's more of a rock edge to it. More of that punk. More of that, 'I don't give a damn.' More of the Sex Pistols, The Clash, The Dead Kennedys. It's rebellious country music," said Millstadt native Don Bailey, 44. Bailey sings lead, plays guitar and formed the group in 1994.

That group's original lead guitarist was Robert McDaniel. He quit. Then they named the band after him.

They played and toured regionally until 1997, when Bailey opened the Three-One-Three music club in Belleville. Bailey directed most of his energy toward the club and put The Bob Band on the back burner. In 2006, he closed Three-One-Three and opened a Cajun restaurant in Millstadt called the EurOrleans Bistro. The group was resurrected in 2009 and they released an album, "Greasy Side Down," in 2010.

They have been performing locally and regionally in support of their latest album, "Time Served," which was released at the end of 2012. A News-Democrat video of the title track has more than 272,000 plays and 267 "likes" on You Tube.

Lead guitarist Tom Sweet grew up in Belleville and played in the indie rock band "Asia Minor." He currently lives in Smithton and works at TriZetto Provider Solutions.

"I grew up listening to this with my parents playing bluegrass records and country records," Sweet said. "I thought I hated it as a kid. I wanted to listen to punk rock and get away from that.

"Now that I've gotten older, I'm like, 'This is comfortable.' I can enjoy this now that I'm a little bit older. It still has that punk rock tinge to it. We all grew up listening to punk rock and playing in those types of bands. It's all related. If you listen to punk rock songs: three chords, it's got that fury progression, and real country music has that same aggression to it. It's just played a little bit differently."

Their raucous brand of outlaw country eschews the traditional country music themes. It's all original, with Bailey coming up with the structure and the band fleshing out the song.

"We consciously make an effort to say something that's going to stand out. That you're going to hear and say, 'I can't believe they just said that,'" Bailey said.

Bailey sometimes wears a cowboy hat during performances, but band members look more like an indie rock band with hints at their punk rock roots. Most band members previously played in punk or rock bands.

The exception is fiddle player Deirdre Kniffen, 46, of Maplewood, Mo. She joined the band in February.

Kniffen is a classically trained violinist who went to college on a music scholarship but stopped playing after she changed her major to philosophy. She works as a freelance paralegal secretary in the St. Louis area. About seven years ago, she started taking music lessons at Folk School, based at community radio station KDHX-FM 88.1 in St. Louis.

"Secretly this is my dream. I've always wanted to play fiddle in an outlaw country band," Kniffen said. "I'm not getting any younger -- this is my last chance. I never really thought about being famous -- I just wanted to play in a band. Things seem to be going so well."

The band lineup also includes two longtime mainstays of the local music scene -- drummer Kevin Saak, 43, and bassist Alan Wittlich, 36, both from Belleville. All members have full-time jobs and juggle their schedules for band practices and live gigs.

"When I lived at home, when I got my first apartment, I worked so I could make music," Sweet said. "Now it's the same deal. I'm working so I can play music on the weekends. We may get a career out of it at some point. We may not. We're going to have fun at it."

Their passion is evident at performances. They draw a diverse audience.

"I do it because I love it. I just love music. I like to stand in front of a crowd and see them happy," Bailey said. "People work hard and I like to see them entertained."

Want to hear The Bob Band

8 p.m. Saturday at the Millstadt Fireman's Picnic

7 p.m. July 20, Swansea Improvement Hall

8 p. July 26, Stagger Inn in Edwardsville.

For other live dates and more informaiton, visit thebobbandonline.com

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