By Matt Koelling
Kevin Bacon is a world renowned superstar, pop culture phenomenon and subject of a popular parlor game for reasons that have little to do with music.
That is unless we’re talking a Kenny Loggins theme from a film about a town fighting for its right to dance.
This fact can’t be avoided.
The Philadelphia-born-and-raised, longtime New York-based, Hollywood icon who once declared “Fame is very much a double-edged sword” received the smooth side of that blade on a misty Monday night at the Ocean City Music Pier.
And why not?
He is a 30+-years-and-counting “local boy done good” story around here.
A man visiting us for a fifth time, accompanied by his multitalented brother eight years his senior and their shared crack band.
So while we may have seen a looky-loo or two in the crowd, the overall vibe in the crowd was filled with folks out to have a good time rather than gawk.
Which was fortunate for both the act and audience, because this is a gifted group of musicians that transcends the typical actor or athlete side-project trappings.
When the Bacon Brothers Band’s toss-it-in-the-crockpot combination of country, folk, blues, rock, and classical music gets cooking they can actually rock and roll.
Certainly not this reporter before the evening began but many in the crowd were already well acquainted.
Robert Tarantino, a Bergen County resident who’s spent every summer in Ocean City dating back to childhood.
“You have to understand; he comes from a whole family of trained musicians. He’s actually the black sheep being an actor” he half-joked about Kevin Bacon.
Tarantino then went on to further testify how the Bacon Brothers Band’s “unique mix” of varied instrumentation and genre cross-pollination struck him when he saw them at Ocean City Music Pier ten years ago, making him a fan ever since.
This time he brought company in the form of longtime companion Julia Kalachnikova. Julia wanted to see for herself after having heard Robert talk about them over the years.
“I enjoyed it immensely”.
The sold-out crowd standing at the show’s conclusion inside the venue on yet another “Stormy Monday”, the third rain-soaked Monday OC Music Pier Summer Concert Series in a row, seemed inclined to agree.
Kevin Bacon was exceedingly gracious to the South Jersey shore crowd that came out despite the dark skies and summer showers to support the band.
“Thanks, you guys are the best, thanks for hanging in there with us” Bacon said following a song about a giant squid named ‘Archie’.
He then spoke with the conviction of a man who has been playing the venue for nearly two full decades now, “Ocean City hangs in there”.
His film-score-composer/cellist/keyboardist/ukulele-player/guitarist/documentarian/singer-songwriter older brother Michael agreed, “Ocean City you guys are amazing, you could have been a lot of places tonight but you’re here with us, don’t think we take that lightly”.
Don’t take this band lightly either.
You don’t keep returning to the same venue for two decades playing to capacity crowds of standing, cheering and clapping people without having some chops.
While neophytes to the Bacon Brothers spent most of the evening hearing songs that were new to them, one particular song was new to everyone in attendance.
Kevin Bacon introduced a song he wrote about his twenties growing up called “Broken Glass”.
They have yet to get the chance to record but it’s a song that “feels like it’s taken me a lifetime to write”.
And while this was a song penned by a man whose twenties were spent in considerably different circumstances than ours, there was enough figuring-out-what-to-do-with-your-life angst and feelings of tumult that it struck a universal chord with its uninitiated audience as he sung “Here it comes, feels like a hurricane/here it comes, rolling in like a downtown train”.
That’s a keeper, boys.
Go get that one laid down in a studio soon.
For all our human similarities most of us don’t have as beautiful and talented a wife as actress Kyra Sedgwick, whom Kevin alludes to in double-entendre lyrics about life on the tour bus: “Well she comes from Nashville, Tennessee but she’s not too country and she’s not too me/She’s got a Janis Joplin heart and an Aretha Franklin soul, I love to feel her rock and I love to feel her roll”.
Meanwhile the more ‘unsung’ Bacon Brothers by default, Michael Bacon went deep into his bag of tricks throughout the evening as a songwriter and performer.
“I just couldn’t believe how many different instruments he played” exclaimed Philadelphia’s Janice Miller, as Michael played at least six different instruments while alternating between lead and background vocals.
Michael took the crowd back to the 1960’s with a story song called “Don’t Leave the Lava Lamp On for Me” about 401 North Broad Street in Philadelphia, which was then the U.S. draft board headquarters building during the Vietnam era where he told the crowd “you walked in and your whole life changed after you walked out”.
On the song, Michael’s lead vocal took on an almost Brian Wilson-like lilt to his voice while Kevin provided background harmonies and percussion.
The two brothers play off each other with the easy natural rhythms, mutual love and respect as well as the comedic timing of well…brothers.
Janice Miller had brought along her mother Patricia Mattoon while both are in town on vacation from Philadelphia staying at the Biscayne Suites all week.
Patricia, a musician who plays guitar in her Sunday School and Preschool classes she teaches, enthused “the show was incredible”.
Then came an additional treat in the form of running into her “long lost cousin” Nancy Sidell who lives in Ocean City’s Gardens district.
Onstage and off, it was a family affair.
Until next time, Ocean City hang in there.