By Aaron Davis (for JHWeekly.com)
Looking back into the era of silent films (1900-1920), the physical style of acting was invented to bring comedy to the screen before a synchronized sound was practicable. Think Chaplin and his gags.
But San Diego’s The Silent Comedy brings ruckus energy to stage, a blues-rock-folk hybrid of a cabaret-meets-tent revival show. Heavy on the mustaches, waistcoats and top hats, the quartet is bringing a generation back to life in a way that could only be resurrected through the flashbacks of brothers and bandmates, Jeremiah and Joshua Zimmerman.
“What we do, performance-wise, is reminiscent of a Pentecostal church service because of the way that we were raised,” said Joshua, whose father was a Pentecostal preacher. “What we saw growing up came out once we started touring and playing with the band more. It’s interesting because most people haven’t seen the crazy, revival church service kind of vibe. We traveled the world with our parents and saw some pretty intense things, so our songwriting is actually pretty dark, lyrically. We can’t even write light-hearted stuff.”
The Zimmerman family sold most everything they owned and moved to India, then Spain, and traveled through Asia, Russia, the Middle East, and much of the U.S. before ending up back in California. The worldly adventure didn’t lead directly to The Silent Comedy, but instead the brothers formed an aggressive punk band, Dehra Dun.
“We were listening to really hard stuff during that time, and playing much harder stuff,” Joshua remembered. “But my brother and I naturally wrote some folksy songs, and I think it’s because of the music our dad raised us on … like Bob Dylan and even some old spirituals and blues. [Dehra Dun] just wasn’t doing stuff in that vein, but we wanted to record some of these songs that we had been writing. So we formed this side project and it accidentally turned into a touring, performing band. For a lot of musicians, folk music is just really close to their heart regardless of what they play.”
According to Joshua, the early days of The Silent Comedy were treated extremely loose. They never practiced, and the ever-changing cast of players ranged from six to ten members. Shows became chaotic. As they began filling up local rooms, the choice to take it more seriously contributed to a perpetually growing fanbase.
“At first, it was almost like a contest of who could drink the most and still be able to play. It was madness,” Joshua said. “We stopped getting wasted before the show. Over the years we downgraded the lineup to a four-piece and that has really upped our creativity because we have to cover more ground with less guys. It’s more of a rock band than it used to be.”
The Silent Comedy, at times, reminds me of Modest Mouse or Edward Sharpe with barn-burning grit. In 2010, the band released Common Faults, which won Best Pop Album at the San Diego Music Awards that September.
“Making friends on the road is our favorite part about touring. We’ve only been to Jackson once, so we’re looking forward to meeting new people and reconnecting with others.”
The Silent Comedy performs 10 p.m., Sunday, at the Pink Garter Theatre. Free. PinkGarterTheatre.com.