“That’s Life,” by Bif Naked, is used here with permission from Bodog Music.
After the Bif Naked show was cancelled last week at the Rothko in New York City, I, along with everyone else who was going to attend the show, was pretty disappointed. It seems that Rothko oversold a show on the Thursday night prior to Biff’s show and, as a result, the fire department shut them down for the weekend. I’m sure it was an oversight, but one that negatively affected a whole lot of people and simply didn’t have to happen. As I understand it, there were quite a few tickets pre-sold by the venue.
Luckily though, I was able to catch up with Bif’s “SuperBeautifulMons Tour” at her next stop when she played at Sonar in Baltimore. I saw Bif for the first time last October when I interviewed her before her show at the Knitting Factory in NYC. In that interview, I focused on Bif the person. Subsequently I did a review of her current CD, Superbeautifulmonster, so I wasn’t really planning on an interview this time. I just wanted to see the show and maybe say hi to Bif. As luck would have it though, I got a call from Bodog (her record company) asking if I wanted to interview her again. Hmm, I thought, a chance to spend an hour alone with one of the most cool/beautiful/talented women in Canada…hmm, did I really want to do that? Needless to say I couldn’t turn that one down.
Bif has been on almost constant tour since last year, swinging through the United States and Canada and then over to Europe on her own tour. After a week off, her band hooked up with fellow Canadian acts Britt Black (Bif’s former guitar player and longtime friend) and The Vincent Black Shadow. Their combined tour runs till June, at least, and then it is back to Europe again. There is talk of adding a date in New York City onto the tail end of the tour to make up for the cancelled Rothko show, but nothing definite yet.
I got to the venue early and had to wait to see Bif till a local video crew finished their interview. While I waited, I took advantage of the time and did quick interviews with both Britt Black and The Vincent Black Shadow. Both of those bands are very cool and have interesting stories in their own right, as you will see as soon as I get their reviews written up and posted. This story is about Biff though, and so I won’t say too much about the other bands here.
I have to admit I was sort of at a loss as to a topic to interview Bif on. The interview was kind of last minute and on top of that, I had already done those other two stories on her. I was listening to her CD on the way down to Baltimore and kind of started to get an idea from her song “That’s Life.” I figured since I got to spend some time with her, I might as well write about that experience for her fans, who would probably love to have the chance to do what I do as a matter of course. That is the reason I picked this song to play with the story.
Speaking of her fans, I think Bif has some very devoted people listening to her music. To illustrate my point, I talked to some of them at the show and would like to share a couple of their stories with you. The first ones I met were the leaders of Biff’s and The Vincent Black Shadow’s street teams from New York City. They too were disappointed by the Rothko cancellation and, rather than miss seeing Bif, had caught a bus down to Baltimore. That is like a four or five hour bus ride each way and, take it from me, that is not my first choice of transportation. But to them it was worth it to see the show and hang out with their favorite performers for a while.
The next example is two girls who drove to the show. One of them, the driver, said she lives in Syracuse, New York and that she had driven from there down to Alabama to pick up her friend and then driven from Alabama up to Baltimore. The whole purpose of the trip was just to see the concert. Now that is dedication.
The last example is a dude from Delaware. He had driven over to Baltimore from Delaware for the show with his girlfriend. That isn’t real remarkable as it is only a two-hour drive, but he said he found Bif on the web a few years ago and has been hooked ever since. This was his fourth time to see her live and the previous time he had driven to Ontario. He said that it was the concert where she opened for Billy Idol, but was quick to add that it was Bif he had gone to see. Although, he did admit that Billy still sounded good for his age.
After those conversations, I could better understand the obligation that a performer has to their fans. The obligation to get up on stage and put on your best show time after time and to keep it fresh and entertaining each and every show no matter what kind of day you had or how tired you might be from a long tour; because those fans count on you to make them happy, to give them a break in their day-to-day lives. Bif seemed a little tired when I talked to her before the show and it is easy to see why after the tour schedule I described above, but she delivered a great performance. She did some of the songs from her current album, some from previous albums, and a bit at the end where she strapped on a six string and played some metal riffs along with the rest of the band while the audience held cigarette lighters and open cell phones aloft in the best metal concert tradition.
Bif told me before that she likes to play smaller venues more than stadiums because, in the small venues, there is more connection with the audience and that connection is easy to see as she performs. She frequently reaches out to touch the many hands that are extended toward her from the edge of the stage or to make a joke or a personal comment to someone in the audience or to shoot a little smile to someone she knows on the side. Sometimes she takes the time to tell the audience the story or intent behind her songs or to complain of suffering from PMS. I guess I am a fan now too because I found myself singing along to a couple of her songs as I watched the show.
Before the show, I got to talk to Bif on her tour bus. Let me tell you, Bodog does supply quality transportation. The bus had mirrored ceilings, a fairly big screen TV, a home type stereo system, a kitchen, and a living room and dining room (very small but adequate). Bif and I sat in the “living room” on two black leather looking couches facing each other while we talked. She had on jeans, a black tank top, and really cool black biker boots with yellow and orange flames on the toes.
I guess that bus is Bif’s home away from home for the duration of the tour, which at this point must seem like it is going to go on forever. It is comfortable and all, I am sure, but I imagine it is sort of like being a truck driver, always on the move from one place to the next not knowing anyone in the places you stop and not having time to do much in the way of sightseeing. So I guess it probably gets a little old after a while. I bet it gets sort of lonely too, but at least Biff has the other members of her band along. Now I see why she said they have gotten to be like army buddies after being on tour for so long. I imagine that you probably become pretty much like family after a while.
After I got on the bus and we said hi, Bif gave me a Corona and put on some popcorn for us (without butter, she pointed out, in reference to a line from the song playing here). I found out she isn’t much of a beer drinker herself, but she did ask me if I liked any Canadian beers. I told her I had gone through a Molson phase for a long time but wasn’t really much of a beer lover either (Jack-n-Coke does it for me). It soon became obvious that Bif is a loyal Canadian, especially after she asked me if I liked hockey. When I said not too much, she gave me a look and said, “Oh, is there any sport you do like?” as though any other sport was somehow inferior to hockey. I grinned and said, basketball, football, baseball, but I would really rather play than watch. Then I tried to salvage my dignity by pointing out that I had never really been exposed to hockey that much while I was growing up.
Bif was eating a cucumber and spinach salad while we talked and in the picture above she displays it with vegan pride. In the background you can see the kitchen area of the bus. On the left is the dining area. I am standing in the living room between the two couches to take the photo. Beyond that are the bathroom, office, and bedroom, etc areas of the bus. I also got to meet Bif’s kids. Oh, you didn’t know she had kids? Yep, there is Nicholas, who is nine years old and had a birthday on the 24th of this month; and Anastasia, who is eight and is due for some back surgery in the near future. She mentioned that she was thinking about having a birthday party on the bus for Nicholas, complete with cake and invitations. Anastasia liked me but Nicholas was in a mood and had to have some quiet time in the back of the bus while I was there. Ok, ok Nicholas and Anastasia are small, white, furry children (a Bichon and a Maltese) but you know how close you get to your dog and it was obvious that they are Bif’s babies and so I had a little fun with it.
I asked her about her music and she said that she and the band have been working on some new songs for another CD in the future, but it is way to early to even guess about a possible time frame for that material to start showing up. I know that her guitar player has a band of his own as a side project and has plans for putting together a CD himself, but when I asked him about it, he said it has been on hold since last year because of all the touring they have been doing. Speaking of touring, in some late breaking news Bif just sent out a bulletin saying that her tour mates Britt Black and The Vincent Black Shadow will be on the Warped Tour 2006 and that she herself will be performing at least some of the Warped Tour’s stops. I covered the Warped Tour last year from Randall’s Island, NY but this year I’m pretty sure that I will be going to wherever Bif and friends play instead.
So there you have it — that is life with Bif. The endless touring, the bus, the venues, the food, the beer, the friends, the family, and most importantly the fans who make all the rest worthwhile. Bif’s tour schedule is available on her Myspace page as well as is more information on her career and what not. Her albums are available in your local record store or through the Amazon link on this page. If you don’t know Bif yet, check her music out and, if you do, I’m sure you will like her more every time you see her, just like so many of her other fans.
(Photos by Mike Johnston)