Monday, June 6, 2011


Do you ever wake up with a song in your head, and you can't do anything until you've played it? This morning that song was "Electrocution" by Bill Fox.

Bill Fox: "Electrocution"

A year or two ago I was looking for this song "The Dress You Bought in Cleveland," which meant something to me in 1995, and came across this comp of Ohio bands, I Was Up All Night Listening to Records. I'd never heard of Bill Fox but I couldn't stop playing that song.

Well. Apparently Bill Fox is (not)famously brilliant--Guided by Voices' love for him is all over their sound, he's like a proto-Pollard--and (not)famously reclusive. A lengthy Believer piece had a writer lurking around Cleveland for weeks trying to find the guy, and failing. As it turns out, he works at the Plain-Dealer selling ads.

He played here a few weeks ago. A forty-minute set in a gymnasium, early evening light in the high windows, a couple of handfuls of people sitting on the floor before the huge stage where it was just Bill Fox and his guitar.

His voice now was hoarser than the recordings, which have a crackly sweetness to them--it was strained, a little laryngitic Westerberg-ish. Between songs he hardly said a word. He played some of beautiful songs from Shelter from the Smoke and Transit Byzantium. He did not play "Electrocution" or "Bonded to You," my other favorite. And he played several protest songs in 6/8 time that I wasn't that into. But he clearly meant every word. And I was just glad to have him there.

I like knowing that someone like Bill Fox can be hiding out in Cleveland, a city half leafy and homey and half in ruins. A treasure in the rubble who has no interest in being found. He's like that cave in the new Werner Herzog movie: all this beautiful art concealed behind a landslide, its secrecy its saving grace.

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