Darkness is as darkness does

A Ghostplay by any other name: Over the course of two years and three drummers—four if you count the band’s first, a machine—Ghostplay is finally ready to strut its sound with the debut EP 33.

The album—two years in the making—renders a unique sound, without trading any pop hooks. In fact, even a neophyte can hear the delicate balancing act delivered in 33, which is entirely intentional.

Lead vocalist, keyboardist and guitar man Jason Hess, guitarist Leticia Garcia and drummer Armando Gonzalez had juxtaposition on their minds since the band began, even when it came to the name.

“We wrote a list of dark words and a list of lively, happy words and we picked two that went together well,” said Hess.

A name that almost made the cut? Warlock Ferriswheel.

Hess and company settled on Ghostplay after a Google search led them to Urban Dictionary, which refers to “Ghost Play” as “a stealthy method of dry humping.” The double entendre and the fact that the title hadn’t been taken yet by another band sealed the deal.

Juxtaposition isn’t simply in Ghostplay’s name, but a common theme in its sound. Hess cites “Patience” as his favorite number on the EP, because it pairs heavy meaning with a psychedelic melody. Balancing the ever-fickle themes of dark and happy is a task accomplished easily with Ghostplay’s drummer.

“His drumming is fun, fancy, uplifting,” said Hess. “We’ve got enough darkness in our sound without him.”

It’s difficult to disagree with Hess’s assessment, especially when listening to the second track, “My Halo.” It’s an ambient song that would be at home in a typical college freshman’s melancholy daydream, but the bridge’s drum and bass line is jaunty enough to groove to as well.

“New Monday” tricks the listener into thinking it’s going to be another ambient slow burner, but the catchy chorus is reminiscent of the kind of melodies Robert Smith cranked out in the mid-’80s.

Ghostplay’s debut shows plenty of promise, and will hopefully lead to a full-length album. Songs on 33 like “Science” or “Too Much” would fit in too well in a David Lynch film, played during a villain’s silent contemplation. And like a Lynch film, the members of Ghostplay pride themselves on keeping some questions unanswered, according to Garcia.

“[Hess] likes the mysteriousness and people not really knowing the lyrics.”

To listen to 33, visit www.ghostplay.bandcamp.com.

—Jaime Carrillo

The river’s edge: If you’ve never made the brief sojourn down the Garden Highway to visit Swabbie’s Restaurant & Bar (5871 Garden Highway) for an outdoor concert, you still have time this summer. This wonderful little restaurant and bar—one of the area’s worst-kept secrets— is located right along the Sacramento River and hosts some of the best local and regional tribute acts.

Last Saturday’s soiree was no exception as Riff Raff (an AC/DC tribute band), Whoville (a Who tribute band) and the particularly fun sidestage act Two20 (a band that pays tribute to modern rock from the ’80s and ’90s) certainly delivered the goods.

Whoville singer Jeffry-Wynne Prince donned a British flag shirt and got the crowd front and center for most of the set. And although the band was distracted by a couple of technical difficulties, most in attendance didn’t notice any inconsistencies. In true rock ’n’ roll fashion, Whoville brushed it off.

The night’s headliner Riff Raff has been a staple on the Swabbie’s calendar for quite some time and for very good reason. Not only does singer Mike Barnes book the talent at the riverside venue, but he does a great job delivering Bon Scott and Brian Johnson classics.

From the opening notes of “Bad Boy Boogie” through to Johnson-era classics like “Have A Drink On Me” and “Hell’s Bells,” the band exhibited no shortage of enthusiasm. As the able rhythm section held it together, lead guitarist David Chapman worked the large outdoor crowd into a frenzy, aping every cool Angus Young move and then some.

Chapman, who also played with AC/DZ, is known by nearly every working tribute act on the scene for not only being a cool, easygoing dude, but a helluva showman. And while he spent most of the night standing on tables and sitting on fans while playing guitar, his antics left nearly everyone in the crowd smiling.

—Eddie Jorgensen