For a lot of Milwaukeeans, the A.A. Bondy awakening took place when the former Verbena frontman performed a solo opening set for Bon Iver Aug. 14, 2008, at The Pabst Theater.
By then, Bondy's stark and intimate solo debut, "American Hearts" -- released in 2007 -- was already reissued by Fat Possum and was getting a second jolt of life.
For fans of modern folk-infused music, the performance and the record were a revelation.
By the time Bondy appeared at Club Garibaldi this summer, the room was buzzing with fans. He now returns to Bay View's Club Garibaldi Tuesday, Nov. 24, with a full band in tow.
The summer show offered a taste of what was to come in September, when Bondy released his second disc, "When the Devil's Loose," which has a fuller, more textured sound, even though, its creator says, little actually changed.
"There's no more instrumentation on the songs than on the first record," Bondy says. "'There's A Reason' and 'Killed Myself When I Was Young' -- there are as many instruments on those as on any number of songs on the new record. The difference is that there's other people playing them. I just wanted to make it with people."
Similarly, he says, both discs were recorded in short order.
"Most of the songs took me about a day and a half from start to finish by myself," he notes of "American Hearts." And on "When the Devil's Loose?"
"The ones we recorded live took less time than anything I've ever done and they didn't get any overdubs," Bondy says. "But like 'I Can See The Pines Are Dancing' -- on that one there are a lot of subtle things going on in it and it was more like a studio creation in which you have to wrestle with it a little bit in order to get it to sound right."
With an approach that was much the same, the differences come courtesy of Bondy's sidemen -- Mystic Valley Band bassist Macey Taylor and Afghan Whigs drummer Paul Buchignani -- and, perhaps, the songwriting.
"With the first one, they all came really fast," Bondy says. "I guess I had enough experiences saved up and they just decided to come out all at once. The second one, I had a couple songs that were left over from the period right after the first record was written, and then the rest of them were written on and off over three or four months. I wrote a lot more songs for this record. There are probably 10 songs recorded that are just in a box somewhere.
"It wasn't the same. With the first one I did something really charged up because the whole experience was new to me, writing songs and coming out and feeling not judgmental about them at all. So, there were moments, certainly, but it wasn't this arrival of a bunch of things."
Bondy says that he and his onstage sidemen -- Taylor plays bass and keyboards and Eau Claire's Ben Lester plays drums and pedal steel guitar on the current tour -- will not perform any of those "lost" songs this time around.
"I don't know what I'm going to do with them. Maybe enough time will go by and I can look at them and see them in a different light. Once I decided they weren't going on the record they kind of ended up in Purgatory."
Just as other musicians helped make the Southern gothic "When the Devil's Loose" different from the early-Dylan-esque folk of "American Hearts," playing onstage with others makes for a different onstage experience, and one that Milwaukee has never witnessed with Bondy, who has only performed here solo.
"It's a lot different," Bondy says, "I think. I don't have the luxury of being objective, but I'm pretty sure it's a lot different. Onstage, on a lot of them, I'm doing what I was doing before there's more colors now.
"But it's mostly about offstage -- 12 hours of your day are spent traveling and basically not being at home. It's nice to travel alone everyone once in a while. But this time I felt like doing it with friends. It's more fun."
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.