Why I'm Pro-Gimmick
Apparently Lounge gets brought on stage by women dressed as nurses, while stuffed into some kind of silver contraption that he tells the audience is iron lung: "I'm confined to an iron lung most of the time," he tells the crowd in a slow drawl. "Not so much by medical necessity ... as by personal choice." His manager explain that he only performs under certain conditions: He only plays on real pianos; he only plays on Saturdays; and he only plays in the key of C.
Of course it's all gimmickry -- but what gimmickry! Turns out he's a Mississippi art teacher who is kind of an underground/outsider legend in the South. It also turns out that our pal Cynthia Joyce was interviewed by NPR for their piece. This in turn led me to the very belated discovery that she'd written this very fine Gambit Weekly article about Lounge earlier this year. That piece explains the whole deal with Lounge and the man behind Lounge and the reasons the man behind Lounge hasn't really pursued music stardom, including this: "I would have felt like an idiot, acting like I was the musician around all these people who have studied music, who know everything about theory. ... I can only play by ear. I'm an art teacher. Nobody at school even knew I played music."
Lounge plays a honky-tonkish piano style that people compare to Jerry Lee Lewis. (Reminds me of Terry Allen a little bit, too.) He's better than he lets on, from what I've listened to. But never mind his musical ability: I want to explicitly praise his gimmicks. I have long maintained that gimmickry is really, really important in pop music (defined very broadly), and I am all for a good gimmick. Half the reason I like the White Stripes is that their gimmickry is so strong. Blatant theatricality matters, weather it's the Ramones in the leather jackets, or the synchronized moves of Prince and the Revolution back in the old days, or whatever. It matters at least as much as musicianship. So I am all for Bobby Lounge. Here's his site.