Jim's Big Ego Brings a Unique Style of Music to UMM

The University Registrar - UMM

Thursday, February 01, 2001

by Theresa Dorsey, Staff Writer

Jim's Big Ego Brings a Unique Style of Music to UMM
When I took the assignment to review the concert by Boston based band Jim's Big Ego, I really had no idea what to expect. I had never heard their music, and was actually somewhat put off by the name of the band (I mean, naming a band after your ego really does say something about your ego.). The degree to which their free February second concert was advertised, however, intrigued me to the point of really wanting to go.
Before attending the concert, I wanted to get a little background so I had a somewhat better idea of what I was getting into. The band's webpage, www.bigego.com, is definitely the place to go if you're a fan. The page has links to places you can get their music (mostly off mp3.com), a ton of song lyrics, an online store of JBE merchandise, a bulletin board, and a handful of articles on the band. Interestingly enough, the only band member's name I could find on the site was Jim's. But I suppose that shouldn't be such a shock. The site is more of a fan site than a site introducing the public to the band. There isn't a whole lot of information on the background of the artists, which I would have liked to see, and reading lyrics like "I really liked her but she's dead / and that really kinda blows" without knowing what the tune sounds like was a little confusing.
I can honestly say that the JBE concert was one of the best concerts I have gone to in a long time. The music wasn't just good quality work; it also inspired an energy in the crowd that picked up right around the third song and lasted strong all the way through the encore. I'm a huge fan of showmanship; no matter how good a group may sound, their live concerts will only be half as good if they don't have the showmanship down. These guys had it. Guitarist, lead vocalist, and the Ego behind JBE, Jim In fantino, provided commentary through the concert that really helped create a relationship between the crowd and the band. Jim's wildly expressive face also added volumes to the lyrics he sang. Drummer and back up vocalist Jesse Vena provided the occasional jab to keep Jim's ego at bay, though for the most part he kept to the music, playing with a reserved energy that some crowd member apparently thought was really sexy (read the message board on their web page). Bassist Kurt Uenala, the "Virgin Swede" (his words, not mine), was the typical silent bassist, doing his thing with almost no commentary, but with enough attitude and show to really endear him to the crowd.
Of course, behind JBE's incredible showmanship was an even more incredible sound. Critics have compared them to bands such as They Might Be Giants and Cake. I can definitely see where the comparisons come from, although I hesitate to take it farther than saying that if you like TMBG or Cake, you'll probably like JBE. The reason for my hesitation is that JBE really does have a unique sound, and I would rather have them recognized for the quality band they are than simply listed as "sounding like" other bands.
The musical genius behind JBE is, as you might have guessed, Jim. The story behind the band's name, as related to me by one of the other band members, is that Jim was so protective of his music that he didn't want to let anyone else play it - not even a drummer and bassist. I can't imagine the music would sound as good without the back up vocals and instruments, and I suppose Jim must have felt that way, too, since he now has a band. Hey, at least he's honest about the size of his ego. While speaking to Jesse and Kurt after the concert, I could tell that, while they joked about Jim's ego problems and the "abuse" they take, they really respected his music and seemed to genuinely enjoy performing together. JBE certainly has the talent to go far.
The show in Morris was the kick off to a month long tour that will hit colleges in Minnesota, North Dakota, Wisconsin, and Iowa. The first question that came to mind when I read about the tour on the band's web site was: what kind of clown would send a band on an upper mid-west tour in February? The manager of JBE, actually - he really was at one time a professional clown. It was his clowning experience that inspired the addition of the poetry segment into JBE's act. For those of you who were not the re to witness this spectacular event, I'll explain. Towards the end of the first set, Jim asked the crowd to pass around a notebook and write down one or two lines of poetry—it could be anything, the more ridiculous, the better. He had us throw the poem s on the stage, and partway into the second set, he picked up the fist full of papers and started to sing his way through them. Well, it was more like rapping than singing. My favorite line that came out of the whole thing: Here we are in Morris, / The winter kicks our ass like Chuck Norris. Sure, it doesn't scan perfectly, but I'm sure you must agree that it is a sentiment shared by the majority of Morris students.
I really don't get excited by bands all that often - generally I just listen to what sounds good to me. Jim's Big Ego is one of the few exceptions. If they do half as well on the rest of the tour as they did in Morris, they will have no problem building a decent sized Midwestern fan base. They have a sound that I believe could take them far. These guys aren't just another band from Boston (oh, like you didn't see that coming?).