By Tulis McCall
Born To Be Wild (Steppenwolf) contains the lyrics “Heavy metal thunder”. Did you know that? I did not. Barb Jungr did. As a matter of fact I also did not know anything about Barb Jungr and John McDaniel who recently had three nearly sold out shows at Joe’s Pub. So wasn’t I happily surprised when I discovered that from the very first notes of the opening song (Born To Be Wild) I was l-i-s-t-e-n-i-n-g to words that I had never paid attention to. Woo hoo!
That’s what Barb Jungr does – she makes you listen. Some people call it “deconstructing” or “reconstructing” – I call it magic. Jungr’s and McDaniel’s work grows on you exponentially because the music they choose is all familiar. This time out it was music from 1968. Jungr was 14 and McDaniel approaching 8. Me? I was a full-fledged 18, and I do remember. Martin Luther King, Bobby Kennedy, The War in Vietnam, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) was beginning to wind down and finally showed up on the college campus where I was a first year student. The out going president was lying to us and the incoming president was a crook. The country was a mess. Hmnnnnn.
1968. These songs were the backdrop. So of course we didn’t listen to the lyrics. We memorized the riffs and the tunes. We rocked and rolled, and performed all the required extracurricular activities as well. All the while, these tunes were running circles around us. We were filled by this music. These were the anthems that glued us together. At now, at last, because of Jungr and McDaniel, we have been gifted with their stories, the words, the meat. Aquarius from “Hair” reminds us of the hope we felt standing up to The Man. Angel Of The Morning (Dusty Springfield) reminds us that women of The Revolution were still settling, ever so poetically, for being less than first. John McDaniel’s take on Son Of A Preacher Man flips the card table and connects the dots separated by five decades. Revolution and Back In The USSR (Beatles) are marching words that are pulled out from under us with the poignant and vulnerable America (Simon and Garfunkel).
And so the evening goes. Jungr and McDaniel mine the past and deliver their gifts, each in a new suit of clothes. Those of us of A Certain Age appreciate being turned ass over teakettle as we remember and at the same time are renewed. Those of you unfamiliar with 1968 may walk away wishing you had lived it. But fear not. None of us knew what we were living back then. Or did we? Or do we now? Jungr and McDaniel, I believe, think we did know, and our remembering will make us the better for it. With each song they mine a different color and a different performer. The Supremes (Love Child), Randy Newman (I Think It’s Gonna Rain Today), Janis Joplin (Piece of My Heart – which will tear yours apart), to Burt Bacharach (Do You Know The Way to San Jose?) and Otis Redding (The Dock Of The Bay). They take no prisoners. Everything is game. They make you listen because that is what they do. Hell, they even made me listen to a Dylan song (They Wheel’s On Fire) – and I am not a Dylan fan in terms of actually listening to him sing. Thank you – no. The first time I heard a record of his I thought the player was set to the wrong speed.
As performers, Jungr and McDaniel make us trust them from the moment they step on the stage (love the sequined sandals). Theirs is the magic and the precision of entertaining. Hold out your hand, open your heart and take your audience on a journey to a place they have never been before.
Well done. Well done indeed. Catch them wherever they play – you will not be disappointed.