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Published: 2004/01/27
by Jesse Jarnow

Friday Night Freak Show – Lo Faber


So, God Street Wine didn't make it. They perished with the dot-com bust. It
was sad. They were, at times, a great group, embodying the best of the early
'90s wave of jambands. But no use wallowing in nostalgia. It's hard to
imagine former God Street frontman Lo Faber putting his homebound talents to
better use than projects like Friday Night Freak Show, his second
two-disc rock opera in three years. Like Henry’s House, it includes
contributions from the usual crew of ex-Ominous Seapods, including bassist
Tom Pirozzi, drummer Ted Marotta, and latter-day guitarist Todd Pasternack
(who plays a cartoonishly over-the-top king of the underworld, ala Jim
Loughlin's Central Park Troll, in moe.'s Timmy rock opera).

As a rock opera, Friday Night Freak Show doesn't quite stand with the
best of them. The plot, which Faber summarizes on his website, is a wee
overwrought. It involves Boy-O, the imagined rock-star alter-ego of a mental
patient, and his adventures with fellow wards of the psychiatric hospital, a
mad doctor, a couple of descents into underworlds (one of them represented
by a rock club, one of them represented by, er, an actual underworld),
something about the Orpheus myth, and a pair of space aliens. That's not to
mention various themes including, but not limited to, drug use (both
prescribed and illicit), the idea of the rock star, and some thoughts on the
music business. At least, according to Faber's website.

All of those elements are a bit hard to pick up on while listening to
Friday Night Freak Show. But it's fun to try, and certainly
entertaining. There's a lot of music here – two full CDs worth – and it's
hard to imagine anybody listening straight through both, or even straight
through one, with undivided attention. As such, it doesn't really matter
that the story is tangled, or if one doesn't necessarily know what's going
on. It allows a kind of framework to the listening. One can tune in at any
point and try to figure out roughly what's happening in terms of this cast
of characters, who's singing, and whatnot. Each listener who's willing to
engage will end up with his own relationship to the story, adding to it
slightly with each listen, like a video game picked up from the last 'save'

Musically, Friday Night Freak Show is an extension of Faber's various
predilections in God Street Wine — some country, some gospel, a lotta
Steely Dan. His God Street-style of songwriting, which frequently broke down
to half-spoken/half-rapped bridges, is well suited to the theatrical
treatment. Instead of serving as rhythmic vocal breakdowns that provided
contrast to the meat of the tunes (as they did on songs like "Princess
Henrietta"), they act as vessels for content, frequently spilling into
outright dialogue. The whole project is a homemade affair, for sure, with
all manners of synth washes burbling above basslines that may or may not be
programmed (but sound kinda amateurish either way). Every now and then, a
four-man horn section peeks in, and serves the opera well. What's missing – ironically, for a rock opera -which were present in nearly every song Faber
wrote for God Street Wine, are gigantically anthemic choruses.

Ultimately, though – even without the lone credit on the disc's spine – Friday Night Freak Show is the product of one man, which is both to
its detriment and its advantage. Some of the touches – such as Faber doing
multiple not-very-well-disguised voices in the same scene (he's no Harry
Shearer) – are decidedly sloppy. But it also underscores the fact that it
is all Faber's work — random political diatribes by the king of the
underworld, wacky comical asides from the aliens, self-referential comments
about his own songwriting (and personal history), and even intensely
personal songs like the beautiful "I Bounce The Green Ball" (which shifts
with surprising success from delicate toy piano to a beefy electric guitar
and horn arrangement, which ends with unfortunately self-undermining

As much as one can be contained on a recording, it is a personal opera in
the best sense — a total work melding a vision of the actual world with a
self-contained fantasy universe: an idiosyncratic triumph, for sure.

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