When did the art start bleeding out of rock music? When did showmanship and concept get stuffed in the trunk so that the steering wheel could be locked in one direction and the cruise control could be set at 110 mph? (Arguably, it was the precise moment record company execs realized they could make just as much money without it. But I digress.) Even the Ramones, the leather-clad quartet who ushered in the lean, mean, back-to-basics punk era, had a vision and a sense of style. They understood that while a little artistic pretense goes a long way, a drop or two was vital to the creation of captivating rock 'n' roll.
The Slow Poisoner (aka Andrew Goldfarb) knows a thing or two about crafting compelling art from a modest palette. Goldfarb used to have a band full of blokes helping him stretch flesh over his skeletal psychobilly/glam-rock compositions, but the San-Francisco-based musician is generally found solo these days, standing behind a thumping kick drum, strumming away on a hand-hewn electric guitar and singing his little black heart out. And this guy's trip is pretty black indeed. He calls it "surrealistic rock 'n' roll." You'll call it wild. His minimal presentation, described as a collision between David Bowie and Johnny Cash, is riveting and long on character.
And that character is Goldfarb himself. Behind those piercing eyes and disarming grin lies the squirming brain of a demented genius. The one-man music/performance art dervish spins hair-raising musical tales of disease, decay and mayhem. His musical sets include renditions of what Goldfarb refers to as "traditional murder ballads," spirituals and melodies of his own design. His press photo has him casually posing with a severed head. Yet there is nothing contrived about his persona or his art. Nope, the Slow Poisoner is the real deal. Sign up this Sunday night at the Molotov Room (the old Masonic Temple in Hillyard) for a show guaranteed to stir your own sick heart to life.
And speaking of sick, Goldfarb also does an underground comic strip called "Ogner Stump's One Thousand Sorrows," which he writes and illustrates. His bold, contrast-y and nightmarish illustrations perfectly compliment his paranoid and surreal tall tales. His "first 25 sorrows" of a planned thousand-chapter epic are collected in book form from your favorite indie bookstore or through Wonderella Printed (wonderella.com). It is likely the oddest comic book you have ever seen. (Fellow comic artist Shannon "Too Much Coffee Man" Wheeler calls it "Genuinely creepy. Like David Lynch, like Eraserhead.")
"My intention is to finish by the time I'm a hundred years old," says Goldfarb. "I'm currently on track at a rate of 15 Sorrows per year."
Like his musical approach, like Goldfarb himself, like everything this guy does, "One Thousand Sorrows" is seething with an irresistible combination of whimsy and terror, at once delightful and deeply disturbing. Don't put it down, don't turn a deaf ear, and don't turn your back. Andrew the Slow Poisoner is in town.
Summer Pop Perfection -- Bellingham, Wash., has become an incubator for the new wave of pop sounds that are currently taking the nation by storm -- sounds spearheaded by giants Death Cab for Cutie and followed by up-and-comers like Idiot Pilot. This small city has become notorious for producing acts that are accessible, that you cannot help but smile while listening to. Racetrack, one of the newest pop trios to come out of this Northwest locale, is following in the footsteps of their predecessors while making a few prints of their own. Spokane audiences will be able to bear witness to the rise of Racetrack on Friday night at the B-Side.
This forceful power-pop trio is made up of Meghan Kessinger (vocals, guitar), Jackson Long (drums, vocals) and Chris Rasmussen (bass, vocals). Long and Rasmussen's rhythm section provide the powerful background beat, which allows Kessinger to bring crunchy, overdriven guitars as a perfect companion to the genuine and sweet vocal crooning exhibited in every song. Overall, the sonic style that comes through is much like a softer version of the Thermals with the female-dominated vocal style of Rilo Kiley.
For Racetrack's first full-length, City Lights, the band enlisted the help of Chris Walla, guitarist for Death Cab and the production master responsible for engineering albums by the Postal Service, the Velvet Teen and Nada Surf, among others. The result of the band's eight-day recording odyssey is a sincere 10-track debut full-length album, which neatly captures the group's fresh, upbeat sound.
The album, released on Bellingham label Skrocki Records, has received widespread acceptance from like-minded listeners and has climbed charts on college radio stations nationwide. The two strongest tracks, the irresistibly catchy "One Step Forward" and "City Lights," have the potential for success on the commercial airwaves as well.
Though the band has only been together a short time, Racetrack has toured extensively, building a resume and achieving positive word of mouth by sharing the stage with acts such as Built To Spill, the Posies, Carissa's Weird and Aveo. Also, through relentless touring, they have played in such rock 'n' roll temples as the Fireside Bowl in Chicago, the Triple Rock Social Club in Minneapolis, the Hotel Utah in San Francisco and basically every venue in Western Washington.
Joining Racetrack at the B-Side will be Typical Ace and locals La Cha-Cha. Typical Ace is another native Bellingham group that grew from the Western Washington University campus and produces sounds reminiscent of Jimmy Eat World.
Need a little feel-good music to kick off your summer? Here it is. -- Brian Evertstine
Racetrack and Typical Ace at the B-Side on Friday, June 17, at 9:30 pm. Cover: $5. Call 624-7638.
Bring on the BOB -- It's that time again. That's right, all you lovely lads and lasses, it's time once more to kick off the dawn of summer vacation with the city of Spokane's annual battle of the teenage bands competition this Saturday at Riverfront Park, more commonly known as BOBfest. School may be out, but that doesn't mean that you can skip your rock class -- oh no. They'll be taking attendance.
This year, BOBfest organizers over at the Chase Youth Commission's Teen Advisory Council have done it up this band comp thing Survivor-style with 11 teen garage bands competing to be the sole survivor -- and winner of a complete CD recording package from local studio, College Road Recording. The bands will be judged by a panel of local experts who will then hand down scores based on musical ability and originality. Competing this year will be local bands McKinnon Avenue, Messplaced, No Such Luck, Catalyst, One Way Up, Unison, Quagmire, Yetis, Big Wang Theory, Logan Heftel and Band and the Electrostatics. After the competition, 2004 BOBfest winner, local band Mylestone, will perform, frosting the competition's cake for another year.
Additionally, a BOBfest 2005 CD featuring an original single by each of the competing bands will be available for sale during BOBfest. And best of all, the festival is free. -- Mike Corrigan
BOBfest at Riverfront Park's Lilac Stage on Saturday, June 18, from 1-7 pm. Free. Call 625-6054.