Beatle Bob and Liminal Landscapes

Posted: October 2, 2017 in Uncategorized

Beatle Bob at the 2017 Roots and Blues Festival

As I made the long walk from parking to Stephens Park for the recent Roots and Blues Festival in Columbia, Missouri who should be walking directly in front of me other than the now iconic Beatle Bob (Robert Matonis, b. 1953). This well-known fixture at scores of concerts dresses in a retro Beatle wig and coat and is reported to have seen over 10,000 bands in the last decade. He attends at least one concert a day somewhere in an unbroken chain of concerts.

Bob is so well known that he gets shout outs from the on-stage performers who immediately recognize him stage side. Grooving and moving through the whole performance, Bob is a part of the whole experience. What is it like to be permanently in attendance at concert after concert, life as one long performance?

Of course, for Beatle Bob it is a matter of identity; he has cultivated a specific persona through decades of being the true fan. He is known by and has a place for this identity. Others regard him so. In terms of belonging his position is secure, part of the social concert landscape. He has become this character and more than simply accepting his eccentricity people welcome it. They say what I say, “Look – it’s Beatle Bob!”

In Liminal studies we would say that a concert is liminoid space, a space between the ordinary structures of life. This is artificially designed space at the edge, the border, the margin of life. Different kinds of things manifest there. You have the freedom to become something else. Insight, feeling and experience may be revealed in unique ways.  In this regard, attending a concert in today’s highly technical production provides a temporary alternative reality, a Liminal space and time. In this regard a concert can parallel church, without the doctrine, prayer and communion. It holds multiple rituals, togetherness, and moves the emotions from one place to another.

Liminal space, however, is occupied differently depending on who is doing the occupying.  For Bob his life is defined by permanent liminality – a continuous habitation of liminal space. Like the other great traditions of the permanently liminal – monastic life, the wandering vagrant itinerant, people living at the edge of society – Bob lives in the permanent liminal space which has become his primary space. He does so voluntarily, unlike the liminality of prison, for instance, which is involuntary permanent liminality.

Bob reminds me how our reality is so very much determined by the kinds of spaces we inhabit. Landscapes provide the boundaries, safety or confinement that make them and us what we are. When we  dare step outside the structure of the ordinary or are pushed out of that space by unexpected circumstance, we discover what it is like to become a liminal person. For most of us that is usually a temporary state of being. But for some, like Beatle Bob, it is ongoing and permanent. Though Bob and I stood a mere ten feet from one another at the foot of the stage we were actually in very different space; I was passing through and he was there to stay.  Which is why two people can inhabit the same location but be in very different dimensions at the same time.

Look! It’s Beatle Bob!


  1. Mary Ann Steyaert says:

    ok. another way of saying God’s word is from Romans 8 28

    We know that all things work together for Good
    for those who love God,
    Who are called
    according to His purpose.

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