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Photograph by Rachel Thomas

New Jacks Swing: Casey Linstrum dials down the volume and ups the emotion.

It's a B-Side Thing

The Fighting Jacks aren't breaking up, but lead vocalist Casey Linstrum is breaking out

By Claire Taylor

LEAD SINGERS are what draw people to a band—from the flamboyant to the outlandish, a good lead singer can often make enough of a spectacle to propel a band to superstardom. Many dream of a solo career and others dabble, keeping the unit intact. Death Cab for Cutie's Ben Gibbard formed the Postal Service, Tim Kasher of Cursive performed by himself as the Good Life and Jonah Matranga of, well, multiple groups played acoustic under the name Onelinedrawing.

Locally, Casey Linstrum, guitarist and lead singer for the San Jose­based Fighting Jacks, performed solo sets earlier this summer, and says he plans to continue making bandless appearances. His intention isn't to make these one-man gigs the main focus of his music, but instead for them to act as another way of expressing himself musically. "It's cool to have a different outlet—a different sound people can associate with," Linstrum says.

So far, Linstrum has performed only a handful of unaccompanied sets, making his first solo appearance at the Cave in San Jose. Linstrum says many FJ songs begin as acoustic riffs, and that his unplugged shows are "like a B-side thing." Linstrum's solo work consists of Linstrum, a guitar and an audience he hopes to become more intimate with, inviting them to sit cross-legged and kneeling as close to the stage as possible.

Sitting alone onstage, his voice drifting from soft and pleading to achingly intense, Linstrum shows a range of emotion that often isn't as easy to portray amid a barrage of electric guitars, bass and drums. "Typically when people go to a Fighting Jacks show, it's a hard rock thing," he says, "and I think some of [this] music is a little more captivating—and I think people are a little more drawn in."

During these shows, he plays acoustic versions of what he says will likely become Fighting Jacks songs. He added he occasionally performs older Fighting Jacks songs that the band no longer plays live. Plus, it doesn't hurt that he's billed as "Casey of Fighting Jacks," a moniker that not only identifies him individually but also brings further attention to his main body of work.

"I think there are people who will go to an acoustic show rather than a hard-rock show, and this is something where I can play a rock show one weekend and then an acoustic show the next," Linstrum says. "It's just a change of pace, and there hasn't been a lot of acoustic stuff going on in San Jose, and I'm happy to be a part of it."

Linstrum says his work, which he describes as "light on the heart," is a good way to demonstrate versatility—that his band, now 5 years old, hasn't become static. "I think some people do want to hear an acoustic effort from bands—variation, not staying in the same place over and over again," he says. "You have to give your audience a reason to come out to a show." Through these performances, Linstrum proves that his sound can draw a crowd in a variety of arenas, and that his songs about hope and love can take any number of routes—to full-blown rock tunes fleshed out with his band mates or more personal melodies completed through the lone act of sharing them with a small audience.

All of this new attention hasn't driven him to leave the band, however. "As of now everyone in the band's been really into the mellow stuff I've been writing," Linstrum says. "I don't really in the near future foresee a solo effort. I love the band that I play in; they're awesome, creative guys."

Casey Linstrum, David Knight of Day One Symphony and Ben Henderson of Delta Activity perform a free, all-ages acoustic show at Orchard Valley Coffee Roasting, 349 E. Campbell Ave., Campbell, on Thursday (Oct. 27). The show begins at 7pm.

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From the October 26-November 1, 2005 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2005 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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