Faun Fables | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

The Transit Rider (Drag City) is the fourth album from this Oakland progressive-folk duo, the brainchild of singer-songwriter Dawn McCarthy, and like its predecessors it's a dazzling work of magic. McCarthy, abetted by her multi-instrumentalist partner, Nils Frykdahl (also of Sleepytime Gorilla Museum), invents worlds as vivid and convincing as anything you'd find in a top-shelf fantasy novel, but she's far more concise, able to say with a single line and a melodic turn--a Sandy Denny-style flutter, a controlled shriek a la Diamanda Galas--things that many artists of the acoustic bent struggle to spell out for whole careers. A song cycle that McCarthy began gestating in 1994, when she lived in New York City, the album begins with the rhythmic, clanking rush of an elevated train, and its overriding metaphor is, unsurprisingly, transit. As always, McCarthy is racking up points on her artistic license, and isn't the least bit afraid to go way, way over the top and stay there, where the air can get awfully thin. She premiered The Transit Rider in the Bay Area in 2002 as a theatrical presentation with a cast of 13, but for this tour she and Frykdahl are joined only by multi-instrumentalist Matt Lebofsky and drummer Jenya Chernoff, two-thirds of the defunct (and criminally underappreciated) Mumble and Peg. All four will sing, act, play music, and work tech--among Frykdahl's roles, according to an e-mail he's sent to promote the tour, is that of a "rotund subway troll" named Swisspin. Cheer-Accident opens. See also Saturday. Fri 5/12, 10 PM, Beat Kitchen, 2100 W. Belmont, 773-281-4444 or 866-468-3401, $8 in advance, $10 the day of the show, 18+.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Bridget Bell.

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