Indie star Vanderslice to play FNR

by Liz Ellison | 4/3/08 1:12am

After a winter that featured such acts as Awesome Color and Phosphorescent, FNR is set to kick off Spring term with a bang, welcoming John Vanderslice to the stage for Saturday's show.

Vanderslice's songs are never dreary. He's a busy man these days, quickly becoming one of the most recognizable names in indie rock. Vanderslice started out as frontman of the '90s alternative outfit "mk Ultra," but when the band broke up in 1999 he began his solo career. His first album, released in 2000, drew plenty of attention thanks largely to the single "Bill Gates Must Die."

Vanderslice proved he was no one-hit wonder, though. He's consistently put out inventive, engaging albums since then. In fact, since his first album he has released a new ablum every year except for 2003.

Vanderslice's sixth and most recent album, "Emerald City" (2007), has earned critical praise for its lyrical content and its complex, haunting melodies. Many of the songs on "Emerald City" have a political bent. For starters, the album's tutle comes from a nickname for the Green Zone occupied by U.S. troops in Iraq.

Vanderslice's newest songs fold poignant introspection into the anger and grief he expresses about the war. Though his music can be very calming, expect him to rock pretty hard live in Fuel. Also expect a brilliant violin solo or two, and maybe the use of a toy xylophone.

Vanderslice is also known for how much time he spends on the road: He's just wrapped up a gig opening for Stephen Malkmus & the Jicks and this weekend's show is his first stop on a two-week U.S. headline tour.

Opening for the band are Bart McGuire '08 and Ryan Marnell '10, the seemingly unlikely duo who also opened for Phosphorescent when he came to FNR this winter. McGuire, who just finished recording a solo album, "The Star Market," is primarily a folk-rock singer-songwriter.

Marnell began beatboxing in high school as part of a "joke band" that regularly performed shows on their school bus.

"I'm not sure when I started taking it more seriously," said Marnell, who also sings and plays guitar. "I've always just kind of been beatboxing along to anything."

"A lot of people who had heard [McGuire's] recordings before were kind of skeptical when they heard they were going to be performed with a beatboxer," Marnell admitted. "It seemed like kind of a weird thing to do."

Weird or not, the collaboration has been a success. The two met through mutual friends last year and performed at Lone Pine several times before their first time opening at an FNR show in last term. McGuire usually opens for one FNR show per term, but sharing the stage with Marnell has been an unusual new twist.

"I think it makes the show very unique," said McGuire, who cites Vanderslice's music as an influence on his own.

"It's this interesting form of pop music where it's incredibly original, constantly using different sorts of arrangements, and it's still very catchy and effective," he said.

But he doesn't want to draw comparisons.

"I don't think you'd get the right idea if I said 'I sound like John Vanderslice,'" McGuire explained.

Looks like you'll have to come and hear for yourself.

John Vanderslice plays in Fuel after McGuire and Marnell on Saturday night at 10 p.m. Doors open at 9:30 p.m.

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