In the pantheon of rock stars, Ben Gibbard does not belong. The bespectacled frontman for Death Cab for Cutie and the Postal Service has clearly moved enough units, influenced enough pop culture, and had his impact on an entire generation of kids—so why do we not treat the man like the rock star he is?
Granted, he might not be the coolest guy ever to take stage. Elvis Costello, the man who made a career out of being the nerdy kid at the punk rock show, looks like the Fonz when compared to Gibbard. But as he (Gibbard, not Fonzarelli) takes the stage on Saturday night, he will be doing it on his lonesome, without the DCFC boys backing him up. On his first solo tour, Gibbard won't be entirely alone, as he shares the bill with the band-less David Bazan (of Pedro the Lion) and Johnathan Rice, the three singers who, if they just joined forces, would form the Highwaymen of polite indierock. Judging from recent solo performances, Gibbard's material ranges from acoustic songs he wrote (for both of his bands), plus some cover songs that run the gamut from expected (Neil Young's "Harvest Moon") to the unexpected (a surprisingly sweet take on Nirvana's "All Apologies").
So is it his glasses? Well, probably. But everyone from Holly and Lennon handled that in stride. Is it the fact that he looks like, well, you? Not really, but I suppose that can't help. The music? Maybe, since both Death Cab, and the always-on-hiatus Postal Service tend to reward listeners with their subtle smarts, rather than overpower them with radio-ready choruses. But the main reason Gibbard's name is not uttered among the rock elite, is that the guy could give a fuck. Rock star or no, he exists on a higher plane of musicianship, one who sells records while not losing his grip on the artistic reigns. In an industry on its slow death march, Gibbard's Midas-touch of sales (while maintaining air-tight credibility) is astonishing, especially when you consider how unwilling he is to dumb down the final product. When you think about it, that's the most rock star thing someone can do.
Ben Gibbard performs Saturday, May 19 at the Roseland Theater.
Also, an update on last week's "Win a Non-Date With Me to see My Chemical Romance" contest: We have a winner! Kami Arnold claims the extra ticket, and—by me printing her name—the shame of being outed as a fan of mall emo. Here's her winning haiku:
Jersey boys go goth
Epic drama guaranteed
I love teenage angst
Sure, it's no shoebox diorama, like I had hoped, but it's a noble entry. I forgot that when you have a contest about an emo band, every single submission is destined to come in the form of poetry. How could I not have seen that coming?