John Barrett's Bass Drum of Death plays The Funhouse tonight with Lover! and Fried Pony.
"Sorry, when I hit 65 my car gets really loud,"


Bass Drum of Death Shimmy Down the Road of Success

John Barrett's Bass Drum of Death plays The Funhouse tonight with Lover! and Fried Pony.
"Sorry, when I hit 65 my car gets really loud," John Barrett apologized as he rattled down the highway in his weathered Corolla. The 22 year old was en route to his Seattle show tonight at the Funhouse. Chatting as he made his way through Butte, Montana, he recounted his last, grossly under-attended show in Fargo, ND: "I guess it was a bust for a Saturday night?"

But such Saturday nights aren't uncommon in Fargo, my old stomping grounds, where in the early nineties I snuck my underage self into a club to see the first incarnation of the John Spencer Blues Explosion play to less than twenty people. But it makes for the kind of rock 'n' roll war story Barrett will someday look back at and laugh, and certainly heaped tons of indie cred on seven chilly, lucky scenesters who will genuinely now one day be able to say "I saw John Barrett's Bass Drum of Death with six other people, man."

Barrett's debut on Fat Possum records, a 7 inch, containing the singles "Stain, Stick, Skin" and "The Ballad of Bandit X" is one of those mythic, near perfect musical creations, where both tracks are so insanely listenable your turntable's needle will wear out before you tire of them. "Stain Stick Skin" starts out as an homage to the early days of the White Stripes, then descends into a wet dream of distorted guitar a la Kurt Cobain. "The Ballad of Bandit X" changes style considerably, with nods to Creedence and Neil Young, while Barrett playing solo manages to sound like the entire Brian Jonestown Massacre. The two tracks are married in their low-fi garage rockness and reverent freshness, setting the bar sky high for his next EP due sometime in the new year and his first full length, which Barrett says he is taking the month of December off to finish writing.

At 20, after a series of failed high school bands, Barrett formed the Bass Drum of Death. Guaranteeing his practices well attended, he conceived the project as a one-man band, playing bass, guitar and kick drum. A handful of performances later, Barrett and friends shot a video for "Stain, Stick, Skin" for the local film fest in his Mississippi hometown. The video wound up on YouTube and got him signed to Fat Possum. By his 21st birthday, Barrett was touring nationally. To spice up the live show and bring a little cosmic/comic relief Barrett again referenced Anton Newcombe and employed his own "Joel," a light percussionist and backup dancer. You can find live video on the internet of these 2008 performances and even in the grainiest, shakiest cell phone capture, the emotive power of Barrett's voice and masterful guitar work translates.

For this latest tour supporting label mates Lover!, Barrett has chosen to step out from behind his "bass drum of death" and bring along an actual drummer, freeing him up to move on stage and work the crowd a little himself. The guys in Lover!, he says, have served as more than tour mates on this six week stint. "One of the guys was a mechanic for like eight years," Barrett informed me. "He says the Corolla will make it through the rest of the tour if I take it easy. But after that..." Barrett trails off. If battered cars, empty clubs and raging singles are the stuff legends are made of, the Bass Drum of Death are well on the way to meeting with destiny.

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