Live review, Cleveland, OH October 21, 1999
Dirty Linen Magazine, Feb/Mar 2000 issue
Those bad boys of bluegrass, the Bad Livers, made an impromptu stop in Cleveland in October for a sparsely attended but well-received show. The Austin-based duo of Mark Rubin (bass and tuba) and Danny Barnes (banjo and fiddle) laid down a loose-limbed but driving 90 minutes of down-and- dirty, mildly subversive grass. They played a lively, fresh set despite coming straight from a nine-hour drive from Philly (where they recounted getting caught in the “Amish vortex" off the Pennsylvania Turnpike.) Barnes is a formidable banjo player, making the fast rolls look effortless. He has an ideal bluegrass voice, high and lonesome, but with a bluesy elasticity. Rubin put a solid bottom on everything and pumped the rhythm along nicely.
The pair has a sharp, intelligent sense of humor. Unfortunately, their cryptic references to the work of Hovhannes and bajo sexto music floated over the heads of the bemused blue-collar Cleveland audience. They bantered with people shouting out requests, rejecting most in no uncertain terms. One obnoxiously overzealous fan's repeated request for “Chainsaw Therapy” was met with a shout of “Shut the fuck up!” by an exasperated Barnes. They closed out the concert with a languid, trippy rendition of Thelonious Monk's
“Blue Monk.” confidence. Unfortunately, only about a half-dozen earlybirds heard their set.
— Peggy J. Latkovich (Cleveland Heights, OH)