There are fans of live music — and then there's Robert Mantonis. He has caught a show every night, without fail, since Christmas Eve.
Tonight Mantonis is attending his 5000th concert in as many nights. He's actually putting on the show himself to celebrate with some of his favorite St. Louis bands. Mantonis, as you might imagine, is something of a legend around St. Louis. He even has a nickname: Beatle Bob.
"It's like plugging into the electic current," Bob says, attributing his Ripkenesque stamina to drug and meat-free living. "The music just energizes me, even if I've had a bad day."
Bob, 57, is known for wearing '60s-retro outfits and sports a haircut that's reminiscent either of the early Beatles or Justin Bieber. He mostly comes out to hear rock 'n roll bands, but he supports all kinds of popular music. "He knows more about music than anyone I know, current and old," says Hudson Harkins, leader of Hudson and the Hoo Doo Cats, a rockabilly band playing tonight's show. "He's also an expert on baseball and, believe it or not, roller coasters."
Most bands, like Harkins', welcome Beatle Bob, comping him at the door and often inviting him on stage to dance, emcee or even sing. In addition to his constant patrols of St. Louis clubs, Bob has made his presence known at major festivals such as Bonnaroo and the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.
He's done that by invariably standing close to the stage and dancing in a herky-jerky fashion that is, like his look, a melange of early 1960's styles. There are people in St. Louis who can't stand to see Bob show up because they find his shtick a distraction, or worry he might end up kicking them in the shins.
For many, though, Bob's mere appearance serves as a seal of approval. "It's kind of a Beatle Bob-sanctioned show," says Harkins. "If he shows up, it kind of validates that you have a good show."
Perhaps inevitably, Beatle Bob will soon release an iPhone app that will share his nightly picks for shows around the country.