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Bebop Rocksteady impresses Reckers crowd

Paul Steinle | Tuesday, December 9, 2003

I’ve seen Bebop Rocksteady before, off and on, since 7th grade. Three guys playing covers isn’t exactly groundbreaking material. We’ve all seen and heard it before; BBR represents the latest incarnation of three guys playing songs they didn’t write. So what led me to Reckers on this Saturday night? If I really wanted to appease my appetite for music, I could always go to Legends and listen to a pretty boy with a sweet voice croon sappy acoustic love songs to a 90 percent female audience or I could swing into South Bend and check out the thriving bohemian arts scene – and we all know it’s there somewhere. I came to Reckers because I needed to smile. A smile was achieved; courtesy of three young men from Dillon who call themselves Bebop Rocksteady.Standing on stage with horn-rimmed glasses and a sweater vest, lead singer/guitarist Matt Fantazier bore a certain resemblance to one Rivers Cuomo. I was not surprised, therefore, when BBR played Weezer’s “Don’t Let Go” early in their set. Yet I was greatly amused when Fantazier ended the song by tossing a sweater vest to a pretty young lady in the audience. This sequence of events summarizes an evening with BBR. Play a cover, do something funny. Play a cover, do something funny.It’s not my place to criticize the lack of original material in BBR’s set. They are capable musicians. Featuring Andrew Zwers on bass and Justin Oppel on drums, each song was played with full of spirit and a unique twist that comes to define BBR. Despite a late start and slight unpreparedness evident by the arguments about which songs to play, BBR displayed an enthusiasm that carried over to the good-sized crowd present. The set was comprised of two types of songs: those written in the 1970s and those written in the 1990s – Green Day to the Doobie Brothers, from Blink-182 to Creedence Clearwater Revival and back again. Pop-punk is better than no punk at all, and technically, 70s rock isn’t all that bad. Afterall, Lynrd Skynrd did release an album the same year as the Stooges, right? No complaints, given the circumstances. However, I must question the choice to play “Fortunate Son” by CCR. Disregarding subtle political messages, Fantazier’s infectious sense of humor won over the crowd as he adopted a flawless Scottish inflection for BBR’s rendition of the Proclaimer’s hit “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles).” Zwers’s John Fogerty-influenced vocals could use some work however, as he missed the stuttering present on “My Sharona” by the Knack.A little more stage presence wouldn’t hurt the band either, yet this won’t be a difficult obstacle to overcome, given BBR’s obvious love of the spotlight. And kudos to drummer Justin Oppel: anyone who brings their drum set to one of Notre Dame’s cell-block dorm rooms deserves our respect. Either you truly have a passion for music, or you enjoy putting as much junk as possible in your room. I believe in the former.My confession is that I smiled more than once as BBR played. I couldn’t help it. They’re funny. Like the kid who tells so many dumb jokes that by the 20th time you feel your ribs breaking from laughing; that’s BBR. Perfectly harmless, unconcerned with being “cool.” They just want to rock, and they want you along with them.Artistic vision is not a prerogative. Radiohead, they are not, but hey, this isn’t NYU. This is Notre Dame. It’s wonderful to see three guys who scoff at taking themselves seriously. Bebop Rocksteady supplies a sense of humor to a university that sorely needs it. Now if we could only get a band to supply a more progressive way of thinking.