Maybe John Doe gave himself this moniker because he knew what his career was going to look like by the year 2000. A look at his history in film supports this theory: After an auspicious acting debut in Oliver Stone's Salvador, he went on to a B movie where he was credited only as "Drunk at club." In the intervening years, he has worn such screen names as Lucky, Mouse, and Shakin' Rex; he has been credited with the generic titles Cab Driver, Record Store Clerk, and Welder; and was a featured player in forgotten flicks like Pure Country, Lone Greasers, and The Rage: Carrie 2. Then again, he did get to play Julianne Moore's ex in Boogie Nights.

And then yet again, he was a founding member of a little punk band from Los Angeles called X.

X isn't as dead as it once seemed. Just a couple of months ago, they toured through Texas. But when it comes to making new music, X isn't threatening to set the world on fire (wasn't once enough?). For all practical purposes, John Doe is a solo act now, happy to mutate and experiment without a lot of regard for nostalgia. His self-penned bio demonstrates just how eager he is to dwell on the past:

"John Doe History/Update

"Decatur, Ill.//Kingsport, Tenn. black kitten, Elvis on Ed Sullivan//Shawano, Wisc. frozen lakes, ice skating Baltimore, Md. public school, Beatles, James Brown & the Rolling Stones, first real girfriend//Wash. D.C. G.W. Univ. friends in Balto., wander D.C., drink whisky//Simpsonville, Md. roofing, aluminum siding, Antioch College (Balto) two-piece band plays for tips in Fells Point, John Waters & friends, poetry, move west//

"Los Angeles, Cal. John Doe-1976, Beverly Hills bookstore, Gloria Swanson, misfits, outside the public eye, Venice Poetry workshop, Hollywood, punk rock, X, Masque, Whisky au Go-Go, Starwood, Elks Lodge, Canterbury Apts., bands & people & friends & enemies, complete distain for business, N.Y. bands, strawberry soda & gin, black beauties sniffed off thumbnail, love, marriage, death, sort of famous, writing, recording, touring, community lost, writing, recording, touring, relationships eventually strained, writing, recording, touring, acting, divorce, drinking, parents die, writing, new love, children, life in the mountains, confront self, solo writing, recording & touring, lose inspiration for writing & music, much more acting, hard times, rediscover love of music & writing, two indie rock records later, more acting, TV series, finally make acoustic record. Update done."

And that long-awaited acoustic record, Dim Stars, Bright Sky (iMUSIC), is a bit more of an event than Doe's near dismissal lets on. It's a star-studded affair: Jakob Dylan, Aimee Mann, Jane

6pm, Sunday, March 16, $12
1719 Blanco
Wiedlin of the Go-Go's, and Rhett Miller of the Old 97's lend a hand. Chunks of the disc were produced by Joe "God's gift to smart pop music," Henry. Henry is more hands-off than usual, allowing Doe to get as stripped-down as he wants. His presence is only undeniable on "Magic," one of the livelier tracks on the disc.

It is easy to wish that Doe had unplugged a little earlier in his career; years of shouting over a punk band have left his voice hoarse and creaking. But that's not bad for these new songs, most of which contain pawn shops, empty bottles, or friends who have gone to seed. Strangely, there's hardly a depressing tune among them.

The real test of an acoustic performer, though, is playing the songs live without the guests who showed up at the studio. Doe gets to prove his mettle at Casbeers, where he will be joined only by a stand-up bassist and keyboard player. Go see him and buy a record, if only so he won't have to take so many auditions for unworthy TV dramas. •

More by John DeFore



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