What is a hobo cabaret? Even the members of Yard Dogs Road Show struggle to explain. Born from the saloon vaudeville that toured the Wild West in the late 1800s, it’s a theatrical mix of sword swallowers, dancing dolls, fire eaters and poetry. Then layer avant-garde story lines and a burlesque vibe atop an eight-piece band and you can begin to understand what to expect.
This carnivalesque stage show has been going on for more than ten years, born in the San Francisco underground as a three-piece jug band and now evolved into a full-on rock band.
Show manager Zebu Recchia, who gave the entity its name, says, aside from Chicago, this summer’s Midwest tour is full of unchartered venues. “It takes a willingness to experiment and to collaborate to be in the show,” Recchia said. “You have to be able to have a love for certain antiquities and an appreciation for whatever the performer’s story is in the present. It’s a very personal show.”
The costumes are a spectacle in their own right, a flamboyant mix of dream-like bohemian threads. The show lauds itself as an artistic collaboration, so it’s no surprise the wardrobe is made exclusively by designers in the group.
Yard Dogs Road Show appeals to people who have creative instinct themselves. Its fresh, outlandish quality makes it hard to understand why so many haven’t heard of the group long before.
“We traveled quite a bit playing in back yards and on the streets,” Recchia says. “As we traveled up and down the West Coast, we met people along the way and sucked people in the group. We picked up a fire swallower in Oregon, one of our guitar players in Las Vegas, that’s why it’s the road show—it’s developed as we’ve traveled.” (Dee Fabbricatore)
June 26 at The Abbey Pub, 3420 West Grace, with Black Bear Combo, 9pm.