Chris Baus

Jay Farrar and Ben Gibbard

Jay Farrar (Uncle Tuplo, Son Volt) and Ben Gibbard (Death Cab For Cutie, Postal Service) recently collaborated on the sound track for a Jack Kerouac documentary, "One Fast Move or I'm Gone", and performed together with a small band at Bimbo's in North Beach last night.

Bimbo's is a tidy, classic, theater with plenty of acoustical dampening, a quaint bar, and seating for dinner. The contrast is stark when compared to the shows we've attended at the Fox Theater in Oakland. While the Fox has benefited aesthetically from a recent renovation, the sound, to put it bluntly, is awful. It echos like a gymnasium from the floor to the balcony, which was particularly troublesome with the act we've seen there including this week's Echo and the Bunnyman.

Ben Gibbard looks like a new man. He's lost weight, grown his hair out, dropped the glasses, and got his jaw line back. Jay Farrar: he's a bar room rocker in a cowboy shirt.

I saw Jay Farrar with Son Volt at the peak of their career in Deep Ellum in Dallas, TX. They were big in Texas at the time, and the humid, sold out show stands out in my memory as a highlight from those days.

I like the hard edge of Farrar's voice and guitar, although his writing style tends to stuff lyrics into phrase with little regard to meter. His track "California" is prototypical of his recent work, so it isn't surprising that he was able to set Karouac's words to music -- he makes words fit even when they don't.

As Gibbard develops from his iconic boyish pop sound, working with Farrar was a smart move. For longevity he needs, for lack of a better word, more masculinity. Farrar's potential for rock star status has long passed, but his I-drank-one-too-many-bourbons-before-coming-on-stage style will net him a long carreer; it ages well.