Ben Kweller
Fri Sept 3
722 E Burnside

Ben Kweller grew up in Texas, released a major-label album with his band Radish when he was all of 15, went solo after that group disbanded, moved to New York, befriended Evan Dando, got married to a gorgeous gal, put out three solo records, went fishing and camping with Kings of Leon ("who are like brothers," he once told me) and befriended new Brooklyn transplant Conor Oberst.

Despite the fact he still looks like he's 15 and he's hyper and boisterous when he performs, the 23-year-old is really only one part "happy kid" to two parts "career and family minded young man." He's focused on holding his shit down, taking care of his loved ones, and dreaming of better days.

His latest record, On My Way, is full of playful, bouncy indie rock and folk that sounds like the Violent Femmes after a day at the amusement park; gorging on cotton candy, riding roller coasters, watching pretty women's pretty hair blow around as the pretty women ride the carousel.

But Kweller seems more settled than he does wistful. On standout track "My Apartment," he pays tribute to his tiny pad and the grimy sidewalks that know his name, like he's finally found a place where he wants to spend the rest of the life. There's goodness in everyone and everything, Kweller believes, and he conveys this feeling so gracefully that you have to give him credit for being so bold about being so vulnerable.

Consider On My Way's title track: Kweller wrote it on a plane from Japan. "I want to kill this man, but he turned around and ran," he sings. "I'll kill him with karate that I learned in Japan."

At this point you might be expecting Beck-like non-sequiturs or the type of anti-folk ballad Kweller's pal and ex-Moldy Peach Adam Green deals in. What actually results is a remarkable song about redemption and love and hope and how friendship and music can play a part in all three. Listen closely and you'll hear about a murderer and a thief who finds a pal and then a lover and then a sweet melody--and then, finally, peace.