Rumor has it

Justin Farren plays a little curbside guitar with a friend.

Justin Farren plays a little curbside guitar with a friend.

Concerts4Charity’s recent benefit at Harlow’s proved surprising in a number of ways. First, Justin Farren, whom I had not had the privilege of hearing previously, was a welcome surprise. He is an excellent showman and performer. Farren’s sound owes much to Jack Johnson—with upbeat, jammy acoustic-guitar playing that is rhythmic and intricate.

Furthermore, Farren’s lyrics and general songwriting style seem heavily influenced by folk legend Greg Brown. Brown’s writing contains a sort of wry humor even at its most bitter, downbeat moments, and Farren’s songs also relate much of that laughter-in-the-face-of-terror vibe. In “The Fly Song,” Farren sings from the point of view of (you guessed it) a fly, ultimately tying the metaphor back to human experience. With Farren’s particular delivery and sense of humor, the fly metaphor isn’t nearly as precious as it might have been. Instead, he manages to imbue it with emotional resonance that is important and effective. Check out his Flash-heavy Web site at to get a taste of what he’s up to.

Less effective for me this time around were the Low Flying Owls, a band that performed a set composed mostly of material from its upcoming album. The band’s new sound seems to embrace a droning, Velvet Underground-like approach, not necessarily in terms of the music itself but in Jared Southard’s vocal delivery. Southard has never stretched particularly far in his vocals, but on the new songs he has chosen to further shorten his melodic lines, sometimes only moving between two or three notes in an entire song. It’s a strange choice that pulls most of the melody from the songs in favor of a somewhat droning, apathetic sound. I’m curious about how effective this will be on record, although one audience member I spoke to had heard the recordings and thought they were the band’s best work to date.

Last on the evening’s program was the marvelous Frank Jordan. I inadvertently freaked out frontman Mike Visser when I asked him if the band was breaking up. “No …” he stammered, obviously shocked by the question. My inquiry stemmed from the simple observation that the Proles’ Web site lists Visser as a new member (Visser lives with members of the band and has been writing songs with them). Last I checked, Frank Jordan’s live calendar was—apart from an upcoming date at Cesar Chavez Plaza—completely empty. Only time will tell what will happen to Frank Jordan, but according to Visser, breaking up is not in the band’s immediate plans.

Not so for Playing to the Grandstand, a band I wrote about just a few months ago as they prepared to go into the studio with legendary producer Steve Albini. The Americans Are Coming Recordings head honcho (and SN&R contributing writer) Eddie Jorgensen let slip that the band is defunct, with drummer Justin Goings joining none other than the Proles. Needless to say, that makes the Proles into something of an area supergroup. More information on that band is at

And make sure you check for information on upcoming benefits. These people are doing good work and should be supported.