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Ben Gibbard and Jay Farrar @ Turner Hall Ballroom

Jan. 30, 2010

Feb. 1, 2010
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Ben Gibbard and Jay Farrar hail from different sides of the tracks. The Death Cab for Cutie frontman is the gentle romantic type who broods about lost loves, while the Son Volt lead singer is more of the country punk who wouldn't be out of place drinking bourbon and smoking a cigarette at a run-down dive.

But Saturday night at Turner Hall Ballroom the two came together to engage in a shared passion, Jack Kerouac, and play from their newest effort, a soundtrack to the documentary about the author, One Fast Move or I'm Gone: Kerouac's Big Sur. Farrar crafted every song but the album's single, "California Zephyr," and borrowed from the beat writer's 1962 novel to construct the record's lyrics.

The musicians switched vocal duties throughout the night and let the other sing with only a few backup harmonies, making it feel more like two distinct shows than a true collaborative effort. However, each number carried common themes that run throughout Kerouac's post-fame novel: travel, alcoholism and desolation, to name a few—themes Gibbard and Farrar can relate to as touring musicians.

For the most part, Gibbard's contributions sounded like normal Death Cab fare with a little Southern twang, and Farrar's mirrored Son Volt closely. The only song that Gibbard really crept out of his element on was "All in One," a groovy track that's a perfect fit for Farrar's cowboy snarl. Gibbard performed fine, though, proving that he merits a guest appearance on an Americana track in the future. He even sang a gorgeous version of Tom Waits' "Old Shoes (& Picture Postcards)" that served as an excellent coda to a travelin' inspired set.

The two drifted into their own work three times, with Son Volt's "Voodoo Candle" and "Feel Free" and Gibbard's "You Remind Me of Home"—just enough to satisfy the crowd without taking over the set. The night was so peculiar not because these two musicians came from two different musical backgrounds for this soundtrack, but because they sang backup to the other's work. Gibbard became a cowboy punk and Farrar a romantic. Jack Kerouac would be proud; they were treading on new ground.


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