Molly the Bear might approve
For sheer entertainment value, it’s hard to top Mark Trail, a daily strip that runs on the comics pages of the Bee. It’s a masterpiece from a pre-ironic age, before predatory hipster posturing turned the world into a snarkier, but less sentimental, place. And for my money, it may be the best thing in that paper. (This is not to bash our esteemed daily, with its “five things to talk about” and its preoccupation with all that is au courant, but merely to laud the sheer genius that is Mark Trail.)
This saga of square-jawed outdoorsmen, attractive and horny journalists, bivalve-dumb bear poachers named “Shake” and “Jake” and an emo-friendly tame bear named Molly was on my mind as I sat inside Luna’s Cafe on a cold December night, waiting to hear a certain young songwriter who I’ve already praised to the heavens in these pages, so I won’t mention him now. Mark Trail is like that: It just gets in your craw, only to re-emerge in weird and unexpected ways.
Preceding the aforementioned young singer’s set was a pair of twin guitar presentations. First was two-thirds of a local group calling itself the Terrible Secret, whose set consisted of a series of songs like shimmering mountain lakes that explored a 1980s 4AD Records aesthetic. Brian, the singer, would build the scaffold of each song by hitting his strings with a rapid and rigid down stroke, over which Leah, the second guitarist, would weave fluid strands of guitar noise; the result was a decidedly shoegaze-y experience that didn’t disappoint. Both played Gibsons, and the missing third was a drummer named Brent. You can hear what they sound like at www.myspace.com/theterriblesecret.
The Fender Telecaster-sporting duo that followed came from a Reno band called Mister Vague. (More at www.myspace.com/mistervague.) Normally, the earnest Midwestern tunesmithery of the aptly named Mark Earnest and his sidekick Neal Kramer might find a sweet spot with me, but on this cold Friday night, a week of mind-numbing spreadsheet entries coupled with a month of sucking on cough drops caught up with me, and narcolepsy soon followed. Not even the five cups of coffee I’d downed, or the prattling of Eric Fate, proprietor of Are You Alive Records (Ghosts of California, et al.) who’d sat down across from me at the table next to the door to chat with Star Vaughn, who was collecting money to enter, could keep me from crashing. Fortunately, I didn’t, but a speeding Suburban did—in a spectacular, Grand Theft Auto-inspired, Subaru-demolishing flip that left the gargantuan SUV dead on the sidewalk at the corner of 16th and N streets between the building and a light pole—both left unscathed—with a small crowd scratching its collective head, wondering how it happened.
The Friday show headliner will play the Wednesday night Americana Ramble at Marilyn’s on K on December 20, with his band (he appeared solo at Luna’s). Before him, on December 13, songwriter Kat Jones will appear with Matt Hopper. On December 27, the remarkable local singer-songwriter Scott Rodell—whose energetic, Wilco-flavored album Days on End from last year is a total delight—will play. Richard March and band, as always, will open. For times and admission prices, see www.myspace.com/swellproductions.