Bob Log III—you know, that guy who plays the slide blues guitar wearing a blue jumpsuit, topped by a motorcycle helmet with an old-school telephone receiver attached, and accompanies himself with a kick drum as his hands fly so fast that the slide on his ring finger becomes a silvery blur? The irrepressible one-man band is a party on wheels.
Log discussed his musical history over email from Melbourne, Australia, which these days doubles with Tucson, Ariz., where he grew up (he was born in Chicago), as his home base. "When I was 11, I picked up my mom's guitar and it made a noise that has never ceased to make me smile," Log writes. "I take that 11-year-old's smile and turn it into sound." That aural grin is inspired by Log's early listening, which included Chuck Berry, the Coasters and Screamin' Jay Hawkins. "These guys took the blues, and then turned the party up all in it," he says.
Log talks about this music like it was a youthful crush. "It wasn't like something I would take out to lunch every other Thursday," he says. "This was more like I immediately began feeding it and [we began] doing everything together, sometimes even swapping clothes, until we were laughing at all the same things on a sunny day at the beach and we had a baby."
After initially playing with blues combo Mondo Guano in Tucson, he joined percussionist Thermos Malling in the dirty-blues duo Doo Rag. After a falling-out with Malling during a tour opening for the alt-jam band Ween, Log set out on a solo career, releasing a number of albums on hip Mississippi blues imprint Fat Possum and other labels. He recently self-released two albums: Guitar Party Power and Bump or Meow Volume 1, via BobLogIII.com.
Log plays rock 'n' roll stripped down to its basic elements, but also takes the music to extremes of performance and participation. One particularly notorious part of his shows is the song "Boob Scotch," where he urges audience members to stir his, and their, drinks with a breast (male or female; he ain't fussy). He's also known to frequently bounce listeners on his knee while he plays, and for bringing out an inflatable raft—his own innovation on crowd-surfing.
He describes one of his typical shows in a characteristic manner too fun to edit: "People hear a noise, the noise makes them start to move, some of them don't want to move—but they can't help it. The more they move, the more they sweat. It gets to a point where even the one girl who really didn't want to have a good time has now leapt on stage and is stomping on multicolored balloons just to hear the sound of them popping, while a man in a helmet plays amazing party guitar in time to her stompings. When the people wake up the next day, their faces hurt from smiling, and there are bits of balloons stuck to their shoes."
Genre purists might ask, after hearing Log's signature take on the music, what he has done to the blues. Ever the troll, Log answers the rhetorical question: "I just turned it into a party. They used to call that rock 'n' roll. I didn't invent it." Obviously, he has an unusual relationship with the blues idiom. "The blues is fine. We are still friends," he says. "We talked yesterday. She told me that yesterday somebody somewhere was playing 'Sweet Home Chicago.' There is no 'Sweet Home Chicago' at a Bob Log show. My music is a different kind of party."
The last thing you might suspect about Bob Log III is that at least some of his music is meta-commentary about music. In addition to songs about typical rock/blues subjects like "Shake the Boot" and the carnal desires of songs like "Boob Scotch," Log notes, "I also make songs about the song I am playing at the moment. [Guitar Party Power's epically titled] 'Do That Thing You Think You Did That Thing To' is actually a song about me trying to remember the drum beat to that song." Even the Roman numeral in his stage name is a comment on music, recalling the album where Led Zeppelin hit their stride.
In its self-referentiality, Log's music is like a snake chasing its own tail, though joyfully. In blues music, a common subtext is authenticity, but Bob Log III isn't parodying it or dismembering it, as carefree and punk-rock as his approach might seem. He's showing that authenticity is just another part of rock's theatrics. Between his own theatricality and the sheer speed of his goofy, rhythmic blues riffs, everyone present at a Bob Log III show seems so much in the moment that it feels like he's somehow altered space and time.
It works so well that, in two decades, Log hasn't seen the need to mess with the formula—a temptation common among acts of a similar age. "I have learned many new guitar tricks, and can play things I certainly could not have played 20 years ago, but these tools are still used for the same exact purpose as when I started—[to] make the room go apeshit."