Friday, October 23, 2009

Ben Gibbard, Jay Farrar and Jack Kerouac: Beat Folk

Upon hearing that Ben Gibbard and Jay Farrar would be doing a show to promote "One Fast Move, or I'm Gone," their Jack Kerouac inspired album, I jumped at the chance to see these two talented musicians perform in a small 280 seat theater. After a perfectly complimentary opening set provided by John Roderick of The Long Winters, Gibbard and Farrar joined the drummer, bass player, and multi-instrumentalist (slide guitar, piano, etc) that they brought together for this mini tour.

They opened the show with the song that opens the album, California Zephyr. Setting the tone for the show, this airy song echoes a trip down the 101 on a sunny Southern California day. Infused with troubadour sensibility the song introduces the listener to the theme of the album with the same ease you might expect of a seasoned tour guide. You know you're in for a journey.

With influences such as Country music, Los Angeles, San Francisco, agriculture, the beach and the mountains playing such a prominent role in the tracks, you feel as if you are getting the premiere beatnik tour of California. The sweep of the slide guitar, Jay's deep, slow-moving tone with just barely a hint of southern drawl, and Ben's voice with it's earnest hope are perfect compliments to the pastoral images in the lyrics.

In an effort to portray a full vision of the beat influence and not simply the idealized version that younger generations place on a pedestal there are darker songs. Breathe Our Iodine gives the folk album the necessary depth and dimension with a low, repetitive guitar and menacing organ channels Kerouac's own dark corners of alcoholism.

The show and the album are definitely worth checking out if you are a fan of either Jay's or Ben's, a lover of California history, beat poetry aficionado......or all of the above. Enjoy!