by Josh Vanek
I first saw Bad Naked a few years ago next to the railroad tracks by the Zootown Arts Community Center on the Northside at probably 11:30 p.m. At least 20 people were singing along with every word of every song. He'd apparently been doing his schtick at parties for a while, working out the kinks.
Bad Naked is a guy in a mask with a weird acoustic bass that he wails on while singing songs about hot dogs, the tornado that ripped the roof off the Billings Metrathat sort of thing.
I see Bad Naked in the canon of musicians who also use performance art to take their music to another level, folks who understand that a little danger goes a long way in a performance. Tomata Du Plenty from the Screamers. Lux Interior from the Cramps. Jello from Dead Kennedys. John Geek from the Fleshies. These are weirdos who got folks stoked and riled up. Bad Naked may not have the band backing him, but the same vibe is there.
Here are a few things to expect from a Bad Naked show:
He's polarizing. You either love and are able to sing along with excellent, weird-ass tunes like "Husky Boys" and "I Know What Dogs Like," or you hate it all and leave. Those that love it are the minority.
He's confrontational. One of the things that drew and continues to draw me to punk rock and underground music is the fact that sometimes it's dangerous and you can't just be a spectator like you're watching Iron Man 4 at the Carmike. A guy might tackle you. You might see some body parts you don't want to. Your name might get ad-libbed in a song lyric. You might get shoved.
He's hilarious. There's a song making fun of sentimentalizing place that goes, "There's no place like Montana....except Idaho, Wyoming and Alberta..." (or something like that) that always makes me bust up a little. That's one example of a catalog that runs pretty deep.
He's punk. To me, punk isn't the Ramones or the Clash. It's making wild music and art by your own rules and not caring about what anybody else thinks.
In the planning phases of Total Fest Xthe three-day independent rock festBad Naked's name came up. We put him through the same test as other bands: Is it a little weird/underground/awesome? Is it done with guts? Will it freak some people out? Yep, in all cases. So, Bad Naked played Total Fest X, our 10th anniversary at the Top Hat. It was the first time we'd ever done anything there. During the show he lit off fireworks indoors, threw hot dogs and got himself kicked out of the place. He made a bunch of folks angry, including our volunteers. I won't say it was all worth it, because honestly, Bad Naked's most in his element in a parking lot or alley between bands for about 10 minutes, but it was a spectacle. And folks talked about it afterward.
by Dan Brooks
I have not read Josh's argument in favor of Bad Naked, but I assume he appeals to the mesmerizing beauty of the songs.
That's unfair. Bad Naked isn't about the songs, or at least not about songs as a pleasing series of sounds. It's more about the performance, except the performance is him playing the songs, naked, sort of lurching back and forth. Sometimes he wears sunglasses.
He's not even really naked. He wears boxer briefs, but that doesn't matter. Bad Naked is not about being naked. It's not about nudity, the songs, or the experience of him playing those songs, which inevitably causes one girl to dance and everyone else to look around furtively. In fact, when you eliminate everything ironic or intentionally bad, it is extremely difficult to say what Bad Naked is about.
That makes the con position problematic. Only a jerk would criticize Bad Naked's new release, Shaq Show!, for being a bad album. It's a 26-minute recording of arrhythmic yelling/strums interspersed with people yell-talking, often about whether they should start recording. Obviously, we are not to take these songs seriously. They are supposed to be bad.
The show is also supposed to be bad. The songs are as structureless and irritating live as they are on the albumalthough they are completely different, plus a semi-naked man is shouting them at you. Only a snob would leave Bad Naked's show complaining that he failed to connect with his audience, possibly due to sloppy play. Of course he did that; the idea behind Bad Naked is that he deliberately fails at every aspect of it.
And so he is guaranteed successas long as people watch. It's not like he's going to lose concentration and accidentally play a ballad about his girlfriend. He cannot even fail at failing, since there are no moments when he tries to fail in a way that is particularly funny or weird. His shows, like his songs, are uniform stretches of Bad Naked being bad. It is a genius formula, and nothing can go wrong.
Also it sucks. The only good thing about a Bad Naked show is watching his friends agree to be into it. They support him in his endeavor, because they are good people. Watching them like him makes you like them, and Bad Naked reminds us that we are all basically good people who want one another to succeed. He should stop abusing that.
As part of KBGA's Endofthon, Bad Naked presents a CD release show where the audience is invited to be part of his band at the Badlander Fri., Feb. 15, at 9 PM. Cover $19/$16 in advance. Tickets available at Ear Candy, Rockin Rudy's and the KBGA office.