For any Karate fan, it’s always exciting to hear when Geoff Farina is doing something new, the latest of which is his Chicago-based project Exit Verse. Formed early last year with drummer John Dugan (Chisel, Edsel) and bassist Pete Croke (Brokeback, Tight Phantoms), the tree piece has just recently released their self-titled debut LP, and are now playing shows with new drummer Chris Dye (Speck Mountain, Chin Up Chin Up) stepping in for Dugan. In the middle of their tour, the band braved a monsoon to play a set at Knitting Factory Brooklyn last week, and it was a privilege to be able catch a first live offering of Exit Verse’s beginning material.
It’s hard not to use Karate as a reference and context to draw comparisons and contrasts with Exit Verse, but it’s hard not to look at how one has grown from the other. If Karate was a young but informed punk, Exit Verse is the grown ass man who still has much of the same sentiments and social observations, but communicates in a more relaxed, straightforward manner. And it’s true Exit Verse did not come directly after Karate; after the magical grooves of the unique blend of punk, jazz, and indie rock disbanded, Farina formed acoustic trio Glorytellers, performed with a Roman folk band, played hundreds of solo shows, and what was maybe the most foretelling of forming Exit Verse: the short-lived Chicago punk-improv trio Bando. Oh, and in between all the projects and touring across US and Europe, Farina found time to teach music history at DePaul University in Maine. That’s quite a journey.
So here we were, back in a dark venue on a cold night, a medium-sized crowd listening to what Exit Verse had to play. The band seemed to be concentrating, with almost no talking between songs. The trio would rock out all the way through a tune, then withdraw for a moment to re-tune and re-center. It felt relaxed and exploratory, and the band had everyone’s attention the whole way through the set. It was cool because you could look around and see people jamming out that were clearly longtime fans of any number of Farina’s projects, and some already knew many of the words to the new songs, like first single “Seeds.”
While being more straightforward and classic rock referencing than past work, Farina still gets fancy in the song segues with a decent amount of noodling and solos, and you can still hear many similarities to Karate’s In Place of Real Insight LP in particular. The referencing went even beyond that as well, when Farina dedicated a song to one of his oldest friends who happened to be in the audience as well, Jodi. Jodi Buonanno that is, with whom he had “learned punk rock together in the 80s, in a band called Secret Stars.”
From one of the earliest seeds planted to now, still growing, still living and taking it in, and still expressing. The trees still wave along with the breeze. Exit Verse is much more than from just 2013 to now, and with any luck will grow even more from this point, because Farina is still coming with the message and the licks, along with Dye’s steady beat and Croke’s low end that loves to groove up and noodle around as high as the low can go. Everything changes and grows, but some things don’t change that much, because they don’t need to.
Exit Verse’s self-titled debut LP is currently out on Ernest Jenning.