The Boxmasters (photo: Carolyn McCoy)
Words by Carolyn McCoy
More than likely, if I spoke the name “Billy Bob Thornton,” you’d automatically think of the actor who has starred in Sling Blade and Bad Santa, and you would be correct. But if I mentioned that the same Billy Bob Thornton is also a singer, songwriter, and musician who’s been playing in bands since he was a kid and has released multiple albums, would you believe me?
I hope you would, as that is also a correct assertion. Billy Bob Thornton is very much a renaissance man, with many pots on his stove of creativity, and here I am, front and center at Petaluma’s Mystic Theater on a Thursday night to see what this creative-minded gentleman has to offer me as far as music with his band the Boxmasters.
With 64 years clocked in on this planet, Thornton is still a very handsome man; slim and in shape, his once brown hair now gray and his wickedly playful smile still lights up his face in the most vibrant of ways. The Boxmasters, Thornton states, “is a rock band from Bellflower, California” and was founded in 2007 by Thornton and audio engineer J.D. Andrew, who also plays guitar in the band. There is a “fast and furious” feel to the songs that are loaded with tongue and cheek humor and wit. Thornton’s voice is unusual, gravelly and low, but he nails the notes and does it with such panache. The set was pure entertainment, with Thornton chatting about everything from hilarious anecdotes about touring, his family life, and playing music, often prefacing each song with a funny account that may or may not have anything to do with the song. His life in the spotlight for so many years has made him a ringmaster to his amazing band, which, along with Andrew, also includes keyboard player Teddy Andreadis, lead guitarist Brad Davis, bassist Raymond Hardy, and drummer Eric Rhodes.
If I am not mistaken, there was not a cover song on the set list, which says a lot when the set has 23 songs and is over two hours long. The band culled their tunes from all the various solo and band albums put out of the years. Power ballads are not this band’s forte, thank goodness, and pretty much every song played was a hard-charging, rock and roll ride. Songs like “She Looks Like Bettie Page,” “Watchin’ The Radio,” and “I Got Glendale” were all fun and danceable tunes with humor to boot. “Science Fiction” was a tribute to DEVO with electronic keyboard tweaks and beeps, and “Careless” was all about treating people you love with care.
The interplay between Thornton and the audience was playful and fun as he made us laugh, smile, dance, and sing. We were as much a part of the show as the band. I admit I went into this show thinking, “Oy! Another celebrity vanity project,” but it seems like music plays an important role in Thornton’s life, too. The music had a hand in making him who he is, and within that, I came to appreciate what this band is all about: rock and roll fun.