Kevin and Michael Bacon have been writing songs and playing music together since about the same time they may have been fighting over Lincoln Logs or little green Army guys. In fact, the cover of their first album, Forosoco, shows as much; the picture, taken in 1972, shows Kevin and Michael onstage playing congas and guitar, respectively. The look of communication between the two is telling: although the Bacon Brothers have only been a working band since 1995, they too, run decades deep.
“[In that picture], we’re singing and playing songs we wrote together,” says Michael, “and now we’re doing the exact same thing. Nothing has really changed. We haven’t gone astray from what our original intention was with music, which is communication.”
This has been their hallmark; writing songs that, through bare self-expression and humor, echo the lives of others. It’s an art they’ve refined over three albums and in the 50 to 60 shows they play each year. And with each album and tour, the Bacon Brothers move further away from perceived “don’t tap on the glass” sideshow to a “raise your lighter and sing along” rock band, garnering fan after fan and shattering the obstacle of perception.
The band began when Michael received an invitation to play a one-off gig at a local club in their hometown of Philadelphia. It went off well, and Kevin and Michael decided to explore its potential. Sold-out gigs in New York, LA, Nashville, Chicago and San Francisco followed, as well as a high-profile show opening for The Band at Carnegie Hall and appearing alongside the likes of Shania Twain and Wyclef Jean on the TNT Network’s “The Gift of Song” special. In eight years of recording and touring, the band has become a top live draw and continues to build momentum.
“When we first started, the people who attended our shows came strictly to see Kevin Bacon, the movie star,” says Michael. “Now people come to see and hear The Bacon Brothers.”
This much is starkly evident with The Bacon Brothers Live, a double-disc CD and single-disc companion DVD recorded at Englewood, New Jersey’s John Harms Center for the Arts on February 18, 2003, the night after the biggest blizzard in 30 years. The CD is the Bacon Brothers’ fourth, following Forosoco (1998), Getting There (2000) and Can’t Complain (2002) and documents one hot night with 35 inches of snow outside.
The 20-track set showcases The Bacon Brothers’ earthy harmonies and road-honed rapport, and includes “Woman’s Got A Mind to Change” and Kevin’s hilarious “Guess Again (The KJ’s Song)” (from Forosoco), “Ten Years In Mexico” and Michael’s touching song about letting go of his son “Don’t Lose Me Boy” (both from Getting There) as well as “I’m So Glad I’m Not Married,” “Grace” and “Summer of Love (Woodstock ’99)” from Can’t Complain. The band also renders the most exuberant performance of “Footloose” you’ve seen since, well, Footloose.
“There are gonna be people out there,” says Kevin, “I don’t care what we play, they’re gonna start screaming “Footloose! Footloose!” So you can do two things, you can say “Dude. That’s a movie. I’m a musician. Or you can say, “Okay, that’s part of my life” and embrace the beast. But ultimately, we play it because it puts a smile on people’s faces. And in a funny kinda way, it puts them at ease and it makes them go, “Hey…he’s not trying to be something that he’s not.”
The DVD features the entire performance—not a song was cut—and interstitial interview footage in which Michael and Kevin discuss the Bacon Brothers’ beginnings, creative philosophy and influences, and tell the stories and inspirations of their songs. It is a candid glimpse of a supremely talented band that is neither a side project nor indulgence—knowledge that resonates with audiences after they witness a Bacon Brothers performance.
Says Michael, “I feel pretty secure that, in just about any venue, when people walk out of there, they feel they’ve heard real music.”
Both brothers are proud that the DVD will bring that feeling to a wider audience. “It’s not created in a studio by some producer,” Kevin says. “What you see is what you get.”
The Bacon Brothers are backed by Paul Guzzone on bass/vocals, Marshal Rosenberg on percussion, Frank Vilardi on drums, and Ira Siegel on electric guitar.