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Sum of Their Parts

With a twisted vision, Reverend Glasseye and His Wooden Legs get a leg up on the competition.

"When I was living in Boulder, J.T. Colfax was one of my heroes," Glasseye says, recalling the local celebrity less known for his cadaver-based art shows than for stealing Jon Benét's autopsy report -- and for stuffing burning paper through a mail slot into the Ramseys' foyer. "He was a shit-stirrer. He's got balls. Or a lack of sanity.

"You know, I once upon a time served Patsy Ramsey coffee," Glasseye adds. "And in retrospect, I should probably cherish that moment."

Not that growing up in the People's Republic was all fun and games.

There but for the grace of God go 'Eye: Boston's Reverend Glasseye and His Wooden Legs.
There but for the grace of God go 'Eye: Boston's Reverend Glasseye and His Wooden Legs.

Details

8:30 p.m. Friday, May 24,
$6, 303-380-2333

Reverend Glasseye and His Wooden Legs
2:30 p.m. Saturday, May 25
Boulder Creek Festival, Boulder Bandshell, southeast corner of Broadway and Canyon
free, 303-449-3825

Gothic Theatre, 3263 South Broadway

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"When I was born, my eyes were so crossed you could only see the whites of them," Glasseye says, his voice growing quiet. "I had to have surgery, so my childhood was spent wearing eye patches. Scrutiny came in abundance. Kids were mean, and names ranged from the crude 'One Eye' to the more sophisticated 'Glasseye'. Somewhere along the line, I started to like being called that."

Taking cues from folks like Jello Biafra, Glasseye discovered the pros and cons of performing loud music.

"I played in a lot of punk bands while going through puberty," he continues, "and it had some damaging effects. I'm trying to fix my voice so I have something to sing with by the time I'm in my forties. I've been working on it by trying to sing in a higher range, to get away from the Tom Waits comparisons. Being compared to Tom Waits is one of the worst things that can ever happen to you. It's too much of a pigeonhole. If you play country, you're called country. If you play punk rock, you're called punk rock. If you play anything strange and have a gravelly voice, you're called Tom Waits. Being called genres of music is quickly ignorable, but being compared to a human being directly is somewhat defacing. I'd rather be compared to Tiny Tim."

More mock preacher than gutter poet, Glasseye does revisit well-trod territory anytime he screams about Armageddon or having deadly intent with a thirty-ought six. Truly, songs like "50% Murder" and "3 Ton Chain" -- both from Falls -- sound cliched when compared with material from Waits's 1992 Bone Machinerelease. But with a softer rasp and a wider, more operatic vocal range (plus occasional ululations that recall Jeffrey-Paul Norlander's high-pitched billy-goat phase in the early days of the Denver Gents), the Rev maintains an aura of distinction in the subculture of modern freak-show barkers.

"[Waits] didn't invent this music," Glasseye insists. "If you look back, there's Blind Willie Johnson, who was a huge influence on what I'm doing. There's Dr. Souchon, who was Tom Waits before Tom Waits -- with the snake-oil salesman pitches and the kind of junk Dixieland jazz and what have you. And his music -- if you can find it -- is brilliant. He was actually a real doctor, living in New Orleans in the '20s. But everything is derivative. There is no originality in music anymore. It just depends on what you do with it and where it comes from and what your intents are. If you intend to sound like someone, then you're particularly derivative. If you don't, you may be derivative of a style of music. It's all about matters of the heart, not to sound too cheesy."

Matters of the soul, Glasseye has discovered, are less complicated.

"I found God a couple years back," he says. "And not having the patience to go through seminary and being married, I decided to do it the cheap and easy way." Through the Universal Life Church -- a worldwide ministry based in Modesto, California, since 1959 -- Glasseye received his free online ordination in less than five minutes. Legally certified, he's able to perform weddings and assist at baptisms and funerals (but not circumcisions). "They actually sell something called 'Ministry in a Box' that I've been wanting to get," he says. "But to tell you the truth, I'm not very religious. There's always the power of God in music. Religion creates earnestness in music without it having to be particularly earnest. There's a fundamental power in what you're saying, regardless of how serious you are as a person. That sounds like mad rambling, but there's beauty in Southern religious music that probably had nothing to do with the religion, but in the fervor in which they're singing. I find that to be beautiful."

Given the band's willingness to toy with gimmickry -- the vintage clothing, the hyperbole and the frontman's handlebar mustache -- the more subtle beauty that Glasseye refers to often plays second fiddle to glaring shenanigans. But fun is fun, consarnit.

"I've been looking for some circus stilts so I can be the nine-foot-tall Reverend," he says, laughing. "I love the absurdity, the humorless jokes. I'd love to bring animals on stage. Goats! That would be awesome." Past performances have included roller girls and puppet shows; the band also sells tonics -- curious elixirs for pattern baldness or fungal toes -- demonstrating its perpetual knack for mischief.

"I actually dress this way on a day-to-day basis," Glasseye says of his turn-of-the-century ensemble, which includes a candy-striped vest, pocket watch and spats. "I'm really short. I'm 5' 5". Modern clothing doesn't fit me. It makes me look like a latchkey kid. So I got into the Victorian stuff because I can find clothing that fits me that I don't need custom tailored. But I also have a real big head, so I can't find hats."

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