BoDeans back in business 

You can’t fight city hall, so it’s said. But Kurt Neumann tried.

A few years ago, when his alt-country combo the BoDeans was staging a rooftop concert in its native Milwaukee, Wis., an outspoken opponent from the mayor’s office was doing his best to shut it down.

“But the city got in such an uproar over it, the guy ended up having to come up on the rooftop and give us a plaque naming it ‘BoDeans Day’ in Milwaukee,” the singer says. “And that came straight from the mayor, which was nice.”

So it was with some irony that Neumann, 47, and his longtime bandmate Sam Llanas (who play San Francisco on Wednesday) accepted an invitation from the Milwaukee Common Council this year to attend a ceremony commending them for their outstanding contributions to the city.

“There were a lot of news stations there filming,” Neumann says. “You meet the council members, go into this historical building where they have their meetings, they take time out to give you this commendation, and you make a short speech. It was simple, nice and appropriate.”

What did the hometown hero say at the lectern? “I talked about how it’s not until your local band goes out into the world that it starts to hit home about how where you’re from defines a lot about you and the music you’re writing,” he says. “And I recalled being somewhere on the road where I told someone we were from Milwaukee, and they actually said, ‘Do they have roads there?’ And I said, ‘Yeah, we have cement and everything!’ People just didn’t know about it, so we were being ambassadors, everywhere we went.”

It was good timing. The band was releasing its latest recording “Mr. Sad Clown” on the 429 label, following a Rhino reissue of its landmark 1986 debut, “Love & Hope & Sex & Dreams.”

Nowadays, countless cowpunk combos have co-opted that BoDeans twang. But back in the mid-’80s, Neumann points out, “Bon Jovi was the big thing, and here we were doing this really weird Americana music. So I thought we were some innovators of that sound, innovators of the whole Triple-A radio format, as well.”

But The BoDeans have aged well. Llanas resides in Wisconsin, Neumann in Austin. But they united to pen mature new tracks like “Stay” for Neumann’s young daughters and “Headed for the End of the World” about global warming.

“Sam and I were always The BoDeans,” Neumann says. “And it was important to maintain that as something relevant that has its own unique energy.”


The BoDeans

Where: The Independent, 628 Divasadero St., San Francisco

When: 8 p.m. Wednesday

Tickets: $20

Contact: (415) 771-1421;

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Staff Report

A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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