SpongeBob SquarePants may be saving the world.
Well, not SpongeBob, per se, but the superhero fan who voices him, Tom Kenny. The irrepressible actor fronts a 12-piece soul band whose shows, as he mentioned earlier this month at the animation industry’s Annie Awards, have gotten wilder and audiences more uninhibited in direct proportion to the outside world’s increasing volatility.
“Right around the election, I noticed people started to go a lot crazier to our band,” he said during a red carpet interview with Bionic Buzz at the awards ceremony, where he won his third Annie Award (his second for “SpongeBob SquarePants”), this time for Outstanding Achievement for Voice Acting in an Animated Television/Broadcast Production.
“As the world became more serious and awful and scary, I think people just needed to let loose and dance.”
Tom Kenny & the Hi-Seas is the lifelong music lover’s first band since he was a teen, and what he lacks in finesse he more than makes up for with joie de vivre. The band name notwithstanding, he looks less like a pirate or maritime reveler than an off-duty (and hatless) Blues Brother, jumping up and down onstage nattily attired in suit, tie and shades, backed by a three-piece horn section, a drummer and percussionist, three miniskirted backup singers, and a core guitar-bass-keyboard combo. The presentation is strictly old-school — and that’s part of the fun. Their setlists are designed for audience members who want to dance, with an emphasis on lighthearted 1950s and ’60s chestnuts like “I’m a Girl Watcher,” “Ooh Poo Pah Do,” “Tossin’ and Turnin’” and “Twisting the Night Away.”
Kenny & Co. will follow a Valentine’s Day concert at West Hollywood’s Troubadour with a less formal but no less boisterous Mardi Gras party at the Barkley Saturday night. Retro rock-loving ensemble Charlie Limousine will open with songs from their amiable 2017 album “Palms Ready,” whose noodly keyboard-and-guitar jams suggest enthusiastic study of The Band and Little Feat. On the surface, at least, it seems a curious double bill, but it suggests fun will be had while Kenny’s bold promise of “crazy soul music” is fulfilled.
Tom Kenny & the Hi-Seas Mardi Gras Party with opener Charlie Limousine at the Barkley Restaurant & Bar, 1400 Huntington Drive, South Pasadena, 9 p.m.-1 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 17; no cover, all ages welcome. Reservations and info: (626) 799-0758. Thebarkleyrestaurant.com, tomkenny.weebly.com, facebook.com/thehiseas, charlielimousine.com