Bobby Bandiera and Bob Burger

Teaming Up Again At The Columns

Bobby Bandiera picked up the phone and sounded half asleep. I was worried that I woke him up.

"I'm so sick," Bandiera said. "And it really sucks when you have to sing and you just can't."

Nobody is immune from the common cold, but it can't help when you have an upcoming schedule like Bobby does where the crowd expects 100% entertainment and the performer expects 110% from himself. Bobby Bandiera's summer touring schedule includes bi-monthly dates at the Borgata casino and spa in Atlantic City, weekly jam sessions at the China Club in New York City, a heavy touring schedule with Southside Johnny and The Asbury Jukes, and his usual Jersey Shore appearances with The Bobby Bandiera Band.

"The winter is tough for everybody here, but the summer really comes alive," Bandiera said as we lamented about career paths that have found us both hungry during the colder months. The Jersey Shore community, however, does explode during the spring and summer months even without the thriving entertainment metropolis Asbury Park once was. Everybody's doing something - every agent, every venue, every artist - and every local and visiting music fan are double booking their calendars with the hottest shore events.

One happening everybody should pencil in now is the premier of The Bobby Bandiera Band, featuring the addition of Bob Burger on rhythm guitar and second vocals, at The Columns in Avon on May 30th.

It was in the late 1980s, not long after Bobby Bandiera started performing as a solo artist, that Bob Burger came on board. The pairing was suggested by Stone Pony DJ Lee Mrowicki. "[Bobby's] bass player Hal Selzer decided to leave the band. I auditioned, got the gig, and we started what would become a long-term friendship," Burger recalled.

It has been a while since Bobby Bandiera and Bob Burger have last rock and rolled. "It's been a modus operandi that we work together for a while and then take a break for various reasons for over 15 years now," Burger said. "Over the past year, I've been spending quite a bit of time performing solo and promoting my first album, Cymbals At Dawn. Bobby has also been tied up with other work. But it has always been a trivial matter to simply walk in to the gig and just start playing together again regardless of the time off."

What is no trivial matter is how much some fans have been looking forward to seeing the duo perform together again. Recently, Chorus and Verse spoke with both Bobby Bandiera and Bob Burger to find out what they've been up to and what we can expect from them this summer at The Columns

[To Bobby Bandiera] The last we spoke you were gearing up for The Hope Concert, a charity show featuring yourself and some of your friends, who also happen to be some of the most influential names in music, which was to help fund medical expenses and the ongoing care of your son. How is your son doing?

Bandiera: Robbie's coming along and we still have our fingers crossed and hope for the best.

It's been several years since you released Shove It Down Your Throat, a collection of your best tracks off your first two releases Bandiera and Dog Love You. Fans who frequent some of your local shows have been treated to teasers off an upcoming release. Why after all these years is the timing finally right?

Bandiera: The timing was right three years ago, five years [ago], but when your life has some complications, you don't get to what you really want to do, but here it is.

[To Bob Burger] Have you gotten to hear any of Bobby's new album? Any details you can spill without getting yourself into too much trouble?

Burger: Just a few cuts. We played a couple of the songs at the Hope Concert last year. I know he largely played all the instruments and recorded in his home studio. Joe Bellia [Southside Johnny and The Asbury Jukes, The Bobby Bandiera Band] played drums. Like everybody, I'm really looking forward to hearing it.

You recently released your debut solo effort, Cymbals At Dawn. How is that going for you and how has the vibe at your solo gigs changed since you've added original material to the set list?

Burger: Cymbals At Dawn has been a great career booster in a lot of respects. I think the audience takes you more seriously if you've got a body of original music to present. I'm really gratified that the original songs are as well or even better received than the covers. It opens things up quite a bit.

[To Bobby Bandiera] Which do you enjoy performing more, covers or your original material?

Bandiera: Obviously, my original stuff. I like to get out what my opinion is about whatever I'm trying to say in that particular song. And it's fun to see people's reactions. Most of the time I'm expecting people to like it, but when they don't, that's cool, too.

You both are recognized as collaborating with some of the area's most notorious songwriters, as well as each other. Bob, your work with Glen Burtnik earned you a gold record award and, Bobby, there are tracks on your past albums that you penned with Patti Scialfa and Southside Johnny. How does the collaborative effort differ from writing solo and can we expect more Bandiera/Burger collaborations in the future?

Bandiera: You don't always get the song you wanted when you collaborate and, because of that, it doesn't always come out on a record. As far as stuff that I've written with others in the past, I always hope that it's good enough to put on a record. It not always is, but when you think it is, you go for it. "C'mon Caroline," that I wrote with Bob, is real good, and it worked out for me. You just hope for a good song ultimately, and then when you record it, you hope it sounds the way you envisioned it.

Just because you've written with somebody in the past doesn't necessarily mean that you're going to write with them in the future. Sometimes it goes that way, sometimes it doesn't. It didn't for either of our current records, but it's not far fetched to think that it could happen that we write together again.

The premier show at The Columns on May 30th marks the first time you will be playing with each other on a regular basis in over a year. Can you give us an idea behind the concept of your Sunday-evening appearances at The Columns and your goals for the seasonal event?

Burger: Well, it was Bobby's idea to add a couple dozen British Invasion tunes to the set list. Besides being simply great songs reflecting our collective musical roots, they also lend themselves well to a beach/party/dance atmosphere. A very fun thing to do.

That does sound fun. Bobby, how do you plan on compiling the set list?

Bandiera: All the stuff that's fun to play as a four-piece band: two guitars, bass and drums that we've done before. Because we're too old to do anything new. (Laughs.)

As far as having fun is concerned, the stuff that we grew up with is a lot of British invasion stuff but there was also a lot of American music there so it will be both. Honestly, we're not going to do anything new because it's not fun for me to do anything new as much as it is fun to do the stuff I grew up listening to when I was a kid.

When it comes to bringing Bob Burger back into The Bobby Bandiera Band line-up or when there is new material to be played out, how does it happen that the players in your band, with so many different commitments and projects, can come together with limited rehearsal time and sound like you've rehearsed each set for hours?

Bandiera: A lot of them are my age, so a lot of them know the material, outside of what I've written, which they'll just learn. We'll have a rehearsal or two to get the original stuff ready to play out, but for the most part these guys are just seasoned musicians and you don't have to worry too much that they're not going to come to the gig without having learned or listened to whatever it is we're going to play.

[To Bob Burger] What dynamic do you add to The Bobby Bandiera Band? What is The Bobby Bandiera band missing when you're not a part of the line-up?

Burger: Bobby and I have a great chemistry which I think adds to the band's energy level. Obviously there's also the additional musical elements of a second lead vocal, harmony vocals and a fuller sound with the rhythm guitar. When I'm not there I think they really miss my rugged biceps.

[To Bobby Bandiera] What would you say Bob would say is his favorite thing about playing with you?

Bandiera: We're old friends, and it's just fun to get up on stage with an old friend that you've respected at one point enough to get up on stage with them in the first place, even if you don't work together all the time. That, and I don't hit on his wife.

What do you expect the fan reaction to be at The Columns?

Burger: Well, a lot of fans seem to be excited to see us working together again, and to see me in the electric rather than acoustic context. I just want everyone to have a great time.

What would you like the audience to walk away with?

Bandiera: A beer and a piece of ass.

[ Websites: www.bobbandiera.com, www.bobburger.com ]

The Bobby Bandiera Band plays their first seasonal gig at The Columns (601 Ocean Avenue, Avon-by-the-Sea, New Jersey) on Sunday, May 30th at 10 pm*. Return each following Sunday for another dose of summer fun with Bobby, Bob and the rest of the band at 5 pm. For more information, you may call The Columns at (732) 988-3213. (*10 pm show time Memorial Day eve only.)

Bob Burger's debut album, Cymbals at Dawn, is available for purchase at www.amazon.com, www.cdbaby.com or at Jack's Music in Red Bank.