In the age of "myspace bands," blog buzzing and hot new things of the week being plucked from garages and deposited on sold-out stages, it's easy to forget that there are quite a few musicians doing it the old-fashioned way. Climbing in the van, paying out the nose for gas, playing in tiny clubs and crashing on floors are all hallmarks of the life lived by many touring artists, including Eric Crespo. Crespo, who performs under the moniker Ghost to Falco, is midway though a cross-country jaunt that has found him playing living rooms, warehouses and oddly hip junk store/coffee shop hybrids in questionable neighborhoods.
Crespo is no stranger to playing small, quirky venues. The first time I saw him live, almost three years ago, he was playing the back room of a small vegan restaurant in Olympia, Wash. When asked how he booked his latest tour, he replies, "I just started calling and e-mailing people. I had a mantra: If it's on the way, I might as well play. It was really hard for me sometimes; I'd much rather be playing than booking a tour and sending e-mails all day long."
Still, Crespo admits all the hard work has paid off: "I've played some weird spots, and sometimes people get it and freak out, which is great." He pauses to pet the cat that's roaming around the venue he's scheduled to play that night. Then he says, "I've met a lot of kitties, too.
"The tour is turning out differently than I expected, to be sure," Crespo continues. "I sometimes perform with a drummer and a bass player and was planning on them coming along. But both ended up bailing, and I'm back to being a solo act."
In some ways, says Crespo, touring as a relatively unknown loner has been oddly liberating: "I can play a different show every night and just kind of experiment. I always have an inner argument about whether I should play it safe and do a quote-unquote good show, or whether I should just go wild and experiment. It usually depends on the vibe I get from the crowd. I'm just personally so sick of hearing 'bands' that are polished and play the same set every night. That's just boring."
His next task is to take his unique and far-from-boring act over to Europe. "I'm leaving on the Fourth of July, which is just perfect timing, and flying in to London. I imagine the European tour will be more of a vacation with shows, but I'm still looking for gigs. I'm just really excited to travel around and take it all in."
Crespo's DIY ethic and willingness to take risks extends beyond his live show to his recorded work, both as a solo artist and with his former band, Portland noise terrorists Alarmist. "I'm putting out a new record right now -- it's only available at shows. My friends in Portland, where I live, are releasing it on their CD-R label. It's their first release and they're learning as they go along, but they're working really hard. The morning I left for tour, I went to pick up the records, and they'd been up all night stuffing CD's into the hand-screened covers."
The CD-R showcases some of Ghost to Falco's finest work to date. Crespo has retained his whispery, confessional songwriting style, but the sound is fuller than his previous efforts. Like his peer Casiotone for the Painfully Alone, Crespo manages to make the cheesy synthesizer so beloved by the stars of the '80s into an instrument of brooding melancholy. Perhaps the most accurate description comes from a write-up in the San Francisco Bay Guardian, which described his music as "unsettlingly beautiful, like a peaceful morning before a funeral." Songs wander around and often past the five-minute mark, but Crespo manages to keep the tracks from dipping in to endless, proggy territory. He is also working on recording a capella songs, largely to break up the boredom of long, solo drives. "I write while I'm driving and use a tape recorder to capture what I come up with," he says.
Ghost to Falco's live show, no matter whether Crespo decides to play it straight or experiment, is likewise lovely and slightly disturbing. Handsome and soft-spoken, Crespo seems to take comfort in being behind his synth and guitar -- he's clearly not your average, attention-seeking front man. He has no plans for world domination, either. "I'm living a sort of hobo lifestyle, and I really like it," he says. "I'm just happy to be out and play shows with my friends."
Ghost to Falco at the 40 Oz. House, 609 E. 40th Ave., with Yokohama Hooks, the Grand Color Crayon, and Numbers Like Dinosaurs on Tuesday, June 27, at 5 pm. Donations requested. Visit myspace.com/spokanewamusic.