One Fast Move

Ben and Jay's excellent adventure

Gibbard (left) and Farrar
Gibbard (left) and Farrar (by Doug Freeman)

Jay Farrar and Ben Gibbard wasted no time last night at Antone’s, launching immediately into “California Zephyr,” the lead track from their recent collaboration One Fast Move Or I’m Gone.

The album, composed as the soundtrack to the documentary on Jack Kerouac’s writing of the novel Big Sur, combines Gibbard’s pop-tinged tenor with Farrar’s graveled grit to almost encapsulate the Beat writer’s continuous swing of emotion, reworking Kerouac’s lines from the novel into an Americana style both haunting and inspired.

Will Johnson opened the night, the local Centro-Matic and South San Gabriel songwriter’s wrenching drawl keeping the quickly-filling venue in respectful reverence. Most notable, Johnson debuted a tune from his upcoming Woody Guthrie project with Farrar. Highlighting “Chorine My Sheba Queen,” Johnson wrought the song with his own raking style scarred across electric guitar. The album, due next fall, will feature Johnson on three collaborations with Farrar, with other contributions by Jim James and Anders Parker.

By the time Farrar and Gibbard, playing as a quintet, took the stage, the sold-out Antone’s crowd had been realized. The duo traded vocal leads as “California Zephyr” gave way to the steel-wrangled “Low Life Kingdom” from Farrar, as his counterpart shifted to keys. “Jack Kerouac and happenstance are what bring us here tonight,” declared Farrar in giving credit for the “little pick-up band” in one of the set’s rare moments of banter. Live the songs were generally given a much more uptempo arrangement than the album versions, which somewhat quelled Farrar’s creaking intensity, but served Gibbard’s takes well.

The slow climax of “Williamine,” and easy polish of “All in One” and “These Roads Don’t Move” presented Gibbard at his best, while “San Francisco” crawled achingly and “Breath Our Iodine” accented Farrar’s bruised blues with wicked steel and electric guitar distortion.

In addition to songs from One Fast Move, they played individual tunes to fill out the set: Gibbard’s “You Remind Me of Home” and Farrar’s “Voodoo Candle." The surprise highlight may have been Gibbard appropriately unearthing his Dear Jack letter “Couches in Alleys,” from Styrofoam’s 2004 album Nothing’s Lost.

Though only playing a seven-date tour in support of the album, it was clear throughout the night both Farrar and Gibbard were not only committed to, but also truly inspired by the material.

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Ben Gibbard, Jay Farrar, Jack Kerouac

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