Bad news travels fast, and for months most of the ear-aware local public has known that Bobby Baker, sonic steward behind Boca Raton's famed Baby Robots and Ant Lunch Musick, is not long for South Florida. In the interest of keeping Baker employed at his health-food store as long as possible, Bandwidth has kept the news a secret, but now it can be told: Baker is going to make like a baby and head out -- to the greener musical pastures of Austin, Texas.
"I can put in my notice, then," laughs the guitarist/singer/songwriter behind the band this newspaper named Best Local Act last year. "I've lived here my whole life, and I've gotta try somewhere else. I'm 29, and if I don't try it now, I'll probably never do it."
Baker and his girlfriend, Tamara Engel, will make the trek west on January 3; the final Baby Robots show is set for Saturday, December 14, at the Billabong Pub. Knowing the lease on their Boca townhouse was expiring at year's end, the pair had a choice between relocating down to Hollywood or out to Austin. The Texas capital won out, primarily because Glenn Barovich, original drummer for the Baby Robots, lives there and has been lobbying Baker to relocate, even offering him and Engel a place to stay. And after a rapturous visit to South By Southwest two years ago (Bandwidth, March 22, 2000), Baker needed little in the way of convincing.
"He's been begging me to come out there for a couple years, and I've run out of excuses why I shouldn't," Baker explains. "Plus, he's my favorite drummer of all time."
The Robots will re-form as a Texan three-piece for the time being, with Baker and Engel switching between four and six strings until a permanent bassist can be located: "Someone else who can hang with us," Baker says.
Musicians leave this area more frequently than airplanes from O'Hare (favorite son and singer J.C. Riley split a few months ago for Central Florida), but the loss of Baker will leave a hideous rent in the local space/time continuum. If there's a sweeter, more talented, and more ambitious musician working in South Florida, we haven't met him.
In the meantime, Baker's bandmates are understandably bummed. "Oh, it sucks so bad," bassist Steve Johnson sniffed Saturday, November 30, in the back courtyard of Respectable Street. "It won't be the same without Bobby. I miss him already." But Johnson (a.k.a. Wolfie Lovebot) will trudge onward, continuing his spazzed-out oddities with Wolfboy and the Fantods, along with 'Bots drummer Steve Bristol. Guitarist Matt Cohen will keep busy with his band, Whirlaway.
"I'm kind of upset, because those guys are my best friends," Baker says sadly, "and I'm not going to meet people like them out in Austin, that's for damn sure. But it'll be nice to see other young people, jeez Louise. And I'll get to see an awesome show each week, maybe open up for somebody that matters!" And, we'll note, enjoy some real Mexican food.
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In his absence, Boca Raton will instantly revert back to the slurping funnel of suckdom it truly is. The Ant Lunch Musick collective, now relocated to Pompano Beach, will not fold, Baker insists.
"I feel really bad, because I've been such a staple in this scene for so long and I've done so much as far as recording and promoting and playing. All the Ant Lunchers are like, 'Shit, what are we gonna do?' and I'm just, like, 'Hey, somebody's gonna have to be me!' Ant Lunch will definitely go on -- I'm just going to bring a branch out to Austin."
Before that happens, make the pilgrimage to the Billabong to buy Baker a beer -- and buy yourself a copy of What's for Drugs?, the new limited-edition Ant Lunch compilation, featuring 20 tracks from national and regional acts including Mr. Entertainment (Baker, known as Kris Pissedofferson, joined last year), Boxcar Timmy, Doersam, U Can Unlearn Guitar, and Creeperweed, as well as superb new tracks from Baby Robots and Whirlaway. Also on hand will be ...Too Bad You're from Florida, the final release from the Boca-based Baby Robots.
"I've got to try something else out," Baker concludes. "Tell the kids to keep on rockin' and that I still have faith in South Florida. Eventually someone will discover it's not just Marilyn Manson and Dashboard Confessional! I just want to have a chance to get arthritis somewhere else so I can come back down here and say, 'Ah, Florida!'"