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Eccentric Bobby Bare Jr. Rocks Mercury Lounge

On the last night of CMJ, a ragtag team of musicians sang about the beauty of flat-chested girls, bionic hearts, and monks at the disco. Good-natured Bobby Bare Jr. and his band, the Young Criminals Starvation League, exploded on the Mercury Lounge stage with an irreverent set combining country, folk, and rock.

“Hi y’all. Love is the principle,” Bare said in his Nashville drawl before launching into his performance. He stomped his feet and vigorously shook his head, sending his shaggy mop of red curls flying everywhere. Meanwhile, guitarist Duane Dennison hopped off the stage and into the crowd, shaking and grimacing to show off his pointy Clark Gable moustache.

The ambitious Bare, who has worked with Frank Black and the Silver Jews, has been performing since before he could read. He was nominated for a Grammy at age 5 for a duet with his dad (Bobby Bare Sr.), a country music legend.

Big and gregarious, Bare used humor in both his lyrics and performance. His freewheeling act was peppered with non-sequitors like, “There’s nothing more important than a flat-chested lady who wants to hold hands with you in public.”

Earlier, the Mess Hall put on a gritty, loud show that was part raw blues, part garage rock. In a field filled with large bands, they keep it simple — one guitarist/singer, Jed Kurzel, and one drummer, Cec Condon.

Kurzel pumped up the crowd with his edgy vocals that occasionally crescendoed into primal screams. During long guitar riffs, he turned his back on the audience, bending down and kicking his feet.

Watching him onstage, it was clear Kurzel is the quintessential “sexy rock star.” Confident swagger? Check. Tall and good-looking? Check. Sense of style? Yep. Oh, and he has an Australian accent. STORY BY RUBINA MADAN / PHOTOS BY HEATHER GALLAGHER