Down With Barefoot Rock

Avoid barefoot rock at all costs. Enough said.
Avoid barefoot rock at all costs. Enough said.

By Peter Gerstenzang

As I’m sure you’re aware by now, the different types of rock have now surpassed the number of people living in Turkmenistan. And that doesn’t include metal. Which, by itself, has 22,000 sub-genres. But the music I’d like to touch upon today, is truly evil, because it actually causes allergic reactions to the listener. Meaning, the minute you hear the first few bars, you must grab two antihistamines. And stick them in your ears. I refer to it as “barefoot rock.” The sort of stuff played by everybody from Jimmy Buffett to Michael Franti, which is soft, warm and unsettling, all at once. Like being approached by a guy in a Hawaiian shirt. Who then proceeds to hock a loogie right in your face.

There’s no question that it started with Buffett. The man who took Key West and turned it from the quietly poetic home of Ernest Hemingway, into combination theme park, fast food franchise and Jiffy Lube. Buffett plays barefoot rock. Meaning, there isn’t the slightest hint in any of his 213,000 songs that anything evil, greedy or horrifying has ever happened in human history. In his case I understand this. Since he’s responsible for many of these things, I can’t blame him for not mentioning them. In Jimmy’s world, you drink margaritas, nobody dies, and cheeseburgers don’t cause arteriosclerosis.

Michael Franti is the New Face of barefoot rock. In fact, he goes everywhere without footwear. He even walks barefoot, when trodding the needle-strewn streets of big cities. Still, taking no chances, he does it on stilts. Franti seems to have one mode. A shingle-inducing mix of folk and reggae that ultimately says that love is where it’s at, things are cool and the sun is really keen. I think one of the lyrics I heard implied that Jimmy Buffett isn’t positive enough. But that might just be me and my uptight, shoe-centric personality. How optimistic is Franti? Put on a John Denver record right after. He sounds like he’s playing Death Metal.

Other members of this shoeless group would be that walking Walter Keane painting, banjo-eyed, Jason Mraz, insufferable surfer dude, Jack Johnson and Colbie Caillat. None of whom has yet to acknowledge that life is more than doing some macrame, smoking a spliff and feeling that life is so adorable, they want to give it a big hug. Still, Mraz has come closest to acknowledging the darkness, with his album, We Sing, We Dance, We Steal Things. I’ll admit it, it brought me face-to-face with some of the horrors of existence. My reaction to this record? I Bought, I Listened, I Projectile-Vomited. So, maybe I’m wrong about this genre. It may be bleaker than I first thought. It’s been five years since I heard the Mraz thing and my lunch came back up. And I can’t forget it. So maybe the barefoot rockers have a secret plan. You stay tuned. I’ll keep you posted.