Photo of Chris Farren by Chris DePastene
Chris Farren separated briefly from his tour with Against Me! to play a headlining show in Portland, OR at Bunk Bar on May 13.
The show was opened by Portland locals Lee Corey Oswald. Short a drummer, Lee Corey played mostly acoustic versions of several of their songs, including a couple new tracks. They took time to mention that a new album is on the way, so definitely be on the lookout for some news on that, as they put it, eventually.
The room began to fill out between sets and you could feel the swell of excitement spreading over the crowd. I had seen Chris Farren perform twice previously, the last time being June of 2017 at this same venue and opening for Kevin Devine, but this night would be the first time seeing him headline.
Perhaps it was the years of wrestling fandom, but I am a huge proponent of entrance music. I love it. I love when it’s used in fun and funny ways, I think it can do a lot to establish the tone of the upcoming performance, and I hope more artists will have a flair for that brand of dramatic. Farren validated this stance as he took the stage to the theme of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Phantom of the Opera, but with the singing of his own name in tune with the song’s melody. It was funny and absurd, but mostly it was really genuine. Because that’s the kind of artist Chris Farren is, and it comes through in his music, and in the performing of his music, and in his entire presence, which is one totally devoid of cynicism.
That level of spectacle would continue throughout the night, with Farren peppering his set with pre-recorded audience applause as well as his own voice-overs. He also employed the use of a projector to cast visuals (that incorporated the liberal use of his own headshot) over the stage.
The set kicked off with the title track to his 2016 album Can’t Die. He followed that up with “Say U Want Me” off of the same album and then straight into the slightly older “Where U Are.” Three stark reminders in a row that Chris Farren ranks highly among his peers in the ability to write a pop song. The middle section of the set would see Farren slowing things down a bit with the Can’t Die cuts “Brighter,” “I’m Not You,” and album closer “Until I Can See the Light,” a song written for the late Harris Wittels. The set highlight for me was the performance of his his latest single, “The Way That I Love U Has Changed,” a love song written about Farren’s wife Cassie, and a beautiful one at that.
Farren closed out the night with Can’t Die favorite “Human Being,” a song about social anxiety and the realization that parties usually kinda suck. Farren’s performance of the song was electric and engaged the entire crowd, it was truly the culmination of the entire evening. As is customary at the end of a Chris Farren set, he dipped back into his soundboard to play an applause track outro. Although, as I suspect is the case most nights, it was unnecessary and barely heard over the actual ovation from the actual crowd. Another perfect set by Chris Farren in the books.