Alone, but not lonely
The Lurk, a Davis-based one-man band, keeps it real, keeps it weird
The idea of what constitutes a one-man band has fundamentally changed over the past decade or so. The term, once reserved for novelty performers at the county fair (usually outfitted with a tambourine taped to one knee and a bike horn under the left foot, etc.) has broadened to include more eclectic, electronically enhanced musicianship. These days, in fact, laptops and iPods seem to be the go-to backing bands for many serious songwriters.
Davis’ the Lurk, however, takes the one-man-band path less traveled, or rather, the old-school approach. Armed with an acoustic guitar, a harmonica, a kick drum—which he plays with his feet—and vocal chords, he brings an almost old-timey vaudeville energy to his sets, yet his music is a sincere, albeit quirky, spin-off of alt-folk rock that stands on its own, one man or otherwise.
“I’m not a Luddite. I’ve used computers to record. I just wanted to start from a place that’s pure,” said the artist, who declines to give his real name publicly.
“The nice thing about not dealing with a karaoke situation is that I can be flexible on the spot. What I do is nothing brand-new,” he continued. “A lot of it is taken from busking: What can [I] do right now at this moment, at the drop of a hat? I always want to keep that spontaneity.”
One difference in how the Lurk juggles instruments onstage compared to someone who simply presses play on a computer is that his performances probably won’t always meet the latter’s standards of perfection.
But being perfect isn’t the point, he said. creating an honest, entertaining show is.
It’s not by spectacle alone, however, that the Lurk provides entertainment. That would only sustain about 10 minutes of interest, anyway. His sets include a mix of offbeat folk-rock originals, but also he leans heavily toward covers.
“Covers, for some [artists], became a cop-out. I think that’s kind of silly,” the Lurk said. “I’m like a deejay. A lot of deejays like to turn people on to music. That’s definitely an element of what I try and do at my shows, pick diverse covers, and hopefully, get folks out of their comfort zone.”
It’s how the Lurk treats covers that sets him apart. Sometimes, they stay true to the original, but often the end up sounding quite different. His version of Talking Heads’ “This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody),” for example, is a particular gem. It’s a fast acoustic number that manages to be frenetic and intimate in a way the original does not.
“A good performance usually has that one-upsmanship on the listener, being predictable enough, then unpredictable enough,” the Lurk explained.
The covers that the Lurk picks tend to be older, because, despite how weird he might seem—his name; his performance; really, everything about him—he said he believes it’s important to play songs that pay homage to musical mainstays such as rockabilly, jazz, and R&B. In other words, don’t look for any newfangled sounds here.
“If I can find an old number that is just straight to the heart, that’s the best. I’m pretty naked up there, and if the song does not have a direct message, then it’s going to suck for me,” the Lurk said. “I’m not so much concerned with the hipness of something; I just want to try and connect with people in a personal way and be in the moment.”