by Raj Ranade
(l to r) Tobias the Mystic Man, Teri Lynn Sage, and Broadway of The Yard Dogs Road Show
The Yard Dogs Road Show and the Ford Theatre Reunion play at Buster’s Backroom and Billiards on Tuesday, September 26th.
Consuming your entertainment from the comfortable distance of a media screen is all well and good, but as Eric Myers can tell you, “seeing a sword twitch as a sword-swallower’s heart beats against it is something you can’t replicate in any [YouTube] video.” Myers is a fire-eating, accordion-playing member of the Ford Theatre Reunion, one of several acts at Buster’s Backroom on Tuesday who will be performing a mix of vaudeville, burlesque, and carnival sideshows that beg to be seen in person.
Headlining the night will be the Yard Dogs Road Show, a self-described “hobo cabaret” that sets the above old-timey attractions to a modern rock-and-roll pulse. According to group member Teri Lynn Sage, the group came together “kind of like a snowball,” as an original three-piece jug band from San Francisco attracted assorted new talents during a long tour, eventually swelling to a 13-person variety show. Sage performs as part of the group’s Black and Blue Burlesque, a trio of elaborately costumed ladies who perform intricate dance numbers to Yard Dogs original music and jazzy covers of Nina Simone songs.
“I didn’t have a lot of performance experience before joining the group,” Sage notes, “but [burlesque] is really empowering. When it’s done really well, burlesque is not just a striptease. I think what appeals to a lot of people is that it’s a celebration of femininity. It’s liberating to be up there on the stage and be whoever you want to be.” The characters played by the Black and Blue share stage space with other creations like the sword-swallowing magician Tobias the Mystic Man and a fire-eating hip swinger appropriately known as Hellvis. The whole colorful cast has since toured everywhere from Portland to Portugal.
Opening for the Yard Dogs will be Lexington’s very own circus band, the Ford Theatre Reunion. The brainchild of former Common Grounds Coffee House employees, the Reunion is named after the infamous theatre where Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, although Myers insists that they are fans of Lincoln overall.
With their bluesy brand of Tom-Waits-inspired rock and their array of snake-handlers and fire-eaters, the group has performed shows all across town, from their own carnival at Boomslang to the Hot Club Cabaret at Natasha’s, and have even been a little surprised at their own success. “We’re not exactly radio music,” says Myers. “[In the beginning], we thought we’d do a couple shows and alienate our audience and that would be it, but we ended up finding a ton of really talented people that were excited about the idea. And to our surprise, there was an audience for it too.”
Myers cites the Yard Dogs Road Show as one of his group’s biggest influences, and the two groups share a mission to leave a lasting impression on their audience. “We want to create an atmosphere and an experience that’s beyond just music,” says Myers. The Yard Dogs Road Show has tailored their show to achieve that kind of impact. “One of the central themes in our latest show is about dreams and dreams coming true,” says Sage. “Part of that is derived from the comments we get from people. One of the main responses I get from people after our shows is that they’re inspired to go after things they’ve just never had the balls to do. We try to let them know that they can conquer the world if they want to.”
A noble sentiment, certainly – but even if the Yard Dogs don’t push you towards total fulfillment, it’s safe to say that their brand of death-defying, mesmerizing spectacle should be quite a few steps above an evening at home with YouTube.
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