Chances are you are one of more than 4,000 recipients of Barfield's weekly e-mailer from www.joebarfield.com. Or maybe you have heard his unmistakable yip-yips on KSYM 90.1 and caught his DJ alter ego, Joe Joe Jellyroll, Monday afternoons on the Third Coast Music program, begging you to bring him a cookie because his blood sugar is waning, and there is still so much more music to tell you about. That gig ended two weeks ago, when Barfield got restless.
Barfield is a funny fellow — funny in the alluring way that a really corny joke is so hilarious. His mental motor runs at breakneck speed, but his "get it done" pace is shifted down to casual. Barfield is basically a braniac with a mutant Jerry-Lewis-versus-the-college-debate-team aura following him around.
I met Barfield when I started working at the Laboratory Brewing Company a few years ago. At the time, he was brewing the beer and booking the bands — he would set up a cheap PA on a stick and put on shows with the likes of Tito and Turrantula or Sister Seven. He may have had an over-zealous affinity for "swing" bands, but his innate silliness seemed to smooth it all over. Plus, he definitely had a growing scene going. (His beer was damn good, too.)
This is what I know of the guy: After earning a degree in anthropology from Duke, Barfield enrolled in grad school at the Institute for Latin American Studies. He began publishing his own brewing newspaper, The Southwest Brewing News, which he used as a campaign vehicle to get brewpubs legalized in Texas. Eventually, he sold the newspaper and bought a duplex, and became a brewer and talent buyer.
Then he started accumulating e-mail addresses. Lots of them. The vision of Barfield with his clipboard out on Sunday nights mingling amongst the swing geeks — twirling and whirling their projectile partners in spats and ruffled skirts — still haunts the Lab's patio. He expanded the e-mail list into the Lab's weekly entertainment preview, and thus began an obsession with telling us where to go — or at least giving us our options.
Barfield eventually went to work for Sunset Station as the talent buyer, where he learned how to do it like the big boys do — for about a year. Not that he enjoyed it much: too many rules. Instead, he immersed himself deeper into the property business and decided to freelance his e-mailing talents.
"San Antonio's music scene has changed a bunch over the past few years. From my perspective it seems to have dwindled," Barfield surmised after the closing of Cibolo Creek, the Laboratory, and Niles Wine Bar.
But, ever the optimist, Barfield hasn't given up, and hails the efforts of First Friday, "when there is a woman dancing with fire in front of a crazy-ass band like Pseudo Buddha and there's a huge crowd ringing around them. I walked across the street to see that '70s soulful funky band Sexto Sol at Espuma and then dashed over to Mad Hatters to check out a full house in front of the Infidels. Clubs? Who needs them?"
You can't shit a shitter, Barfield. The guy used to be known as "Joe Barfly," for Christ's sake. "I miss going to Casbeers then Niles then the Lab then Saluté and Taco Land all in the same night. Variations of that route served me well over the years," he admits.
But, First Friday comes only one night a month, and that is certainly not enough to keep an entertainment e-mail letter going. Even so, Barfield somehow keeps the ball rolling with San Antonio's disjointed guise of a happening city. "There are tons of seemingly spontaneous events popping up around San Antonio. I think of the Guadalupe Theater, Dolores del Rio, Barbed Wire Grill, countless art galleries, charity benefits, and house gigs. The deal with these joints is that you have to be in tune. That takes involvement.
"These days, if you really want to be in-the-know and catch a good deal of what San Antonio has to offer, you have to be on the list. Not the list at the door. The e-mail list. You have to get the call," yips Barfield. And, without him, San Antonio might easily slip into the musical complacency that seems to be our destiny.
But, be assured, Barfield will do his best to keep you posted as to where the next dozen bars are going to be next year and why you need to be there — if you would just write your frickin' e-mail address down so that he can read it!
JOE BARFIELD: E-MAILER EXTRAORDINAIREwww.joebarfield.com