Friday, November 1, 2002 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Night Watch / Tom Scanlon

Jason Webley's giving death another go

This weekend, Jason Webley is going to die. Again.

His parents aren't thrilled by the prospect, but what can you do when your offspring is given to ghoulish pranks? "They've gotten used to it," Webley said the other day, from the Mukilteo home where he was raised, and where he stays when not traveling.

Webley first "died" on Halloween of 2000 when, after a concert, he led his fans to a park on the University of Washington campus and had a group of women take off his signature porkpie hat and black trench coat, which were burned. He then had his head shaved, was placed in a coffin and driven away in a hearse, and disappeared for six months.

Last Halloween, he died again; this time, a crowd of about 300 followed him down University Avenue to the Lake Washington waterfront, where a boat with a woman in white whisked him off. Again, he stopped playing around Seattle for six months.

Something similar will happen Saturday night, after his show at the University District's all-ages venue the Paradox Theater (8 p.m., $8). The artist chooses not to give away much about the show, but does offer that "a big knife will be hanging over my head during the show."

And it's a safe bet that he and his loyal fans will be singing "Goodbye Forever Again," as they did during his previous two deaths. That Webley song is on "Counterpoint," his third album. This is a marvelous recording that will stand as one of the best Seattle CDs of the year, from the Leonard Cohen-ish "Southern Cross" to the Waits-ian "Broken Cup."

Webley is one of Seattle's most curious and talented artists, a cross between Tom Waits and Andy Kaufman. While his Kaufmanesque antics occasionally dominate the view of him, Webley is an unusually gifted singer-songwriter, perhaps not getting the attention he deserves, as he exists beyond Seattle's traditional rock boundaries. Guitar fans won't find much here, as Webley plays accordion and piano.

It's been quite a year for Webley. At Bumbershoot, where he has been one of the festival's most popular buskers, he was arrested for climbing the fountain. "I'm wondering if there's been some sort of karmic shift," the graduate of Everett's Mariner High and the UW muses, perhaps pondering all the things for which he didn't get arrested.

His music and quirky performances — he may read odd stories, or pass out vegetables — are starting to gain him audiences outside of Seattle. He is developing followings in Olympia, Ashland, Eugene and Berkeley. This summer, he spent two weeks performing in Moscow clubs.

"The last several years I've been in the Seattle area less than two or three months a year, between touring and being dead and all that."

Badly Drawn Boy's follow-up is a fall-off

Badly Drawn Boy, another singer-songwriter who likes to goof around during concerts, comes to town this weekend.

Damon Gough, the native of Manchester who goes by Badly Drawn Boy, has come up with a follow-up to his marvelous 2000 debut, "Hour of the Bewilderbeast." His latest effort, "Have You Fed the Fish," is a pretty dramatic fall-off, in terms of quality — not nearly as inspired as "Bewilderbeast." Scheduled for release on Tuesday, this is light pop that pales in comparison to its predecessor.

(A four-star review in the Nov. 14 edition of Rolling Stone disagrees: "There is a flow and coherence to these 15 tracks that make the narrative whole much larger than the sum of its occasionally goofy parts.")

"I make a record, then I go out and act like a clown for six months," says Gough.

"One of the most frequent reactions to my gig is 'It was funny' — it pisses me off. I am funny," he is quick to add. "I'm one of the funniest people I know. In essence," he says, changing his mind in mid-grumble, "it doesn't really piss me off. But it's got to the point where I do things on stage, and if my guitar's not working, people laugh.

"I'm trying to fine-tune the art of my take of what a gig is. I think I'm getting close to it. If you look at the set list, I've played 25 songs." But also goofed around, quite a bit. "I can't help but do it that way, I feel more real that way. ... I can't do it any other way — I've tried to do it differently. I wake up every morning, thinking 'Why ... did I say that last night?' "

The musical clown comes to the Showbox on Saturday (7 p.m., $15, all ages).

Spanaway man in Jim Beam Country Band search finals

Spanaway's Jonathan Harris recently was named one of five finalists in the Jim Beam Country Band Search. He gets an all-expenses-paid trip to Nashville and a spot opening for Trick Pony on Nov. 16. Harris performs at his hometown's Lady Luck Steakhouse tonight and Saturday (9 p.m., $5). The Lady Luck is at 18823 Pacific Ave., 6 miles east of I-5 (Highway 7 exit); 253-846-6141.

Tom Scanlon: 206-464-3891 or


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