Feature: Mark Eitzel at Ace of Cups

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From the November 22, 2012 edition

For Mark Eitzel, the erstwhile American Music Club singer who stands as one of indie rock’s cult favorite sad-sacks, touring through Columbus on Thanksgiving weekend is convenient.

Before moving to San Francisco and forming AMC in 1981, Eitzel spent a couple years at Ohio State roaming house parties, campus bar-hopping and playing punk rock with bands The Cowboys and The Naked Skinnies. “I Love You But You’re Dead,” a song from Eitzel’s new solo album, Don’t Be a Stranger, details some of those exploits, including a run-in with a bar owner they called “Lead Pipe” because he wielded one.

Eitzel’s gig Saturday at Ace of Cups wasn’t designed as a means of coming home for the holidays, though.

“Not really. It was booked that way,” Eitzel said by phone early this month. “My sister lives about 10 minutes away from the club, but not really. My agent was surprised that he got offers from Ohio, so he booked it.”

Eitzel called between tour dates in Seattle and Portland. In Portland, R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck was scheduled as his opener. In Columbus, it’s Scrawl singer/Ace of Cups owner Marcy Mays.

Both are old friends of Eitzel’s, and both are performers he believes he should be opening for, not the other way around. But “that’s what they like to do, you see,” he joked with the same wry humor that courses through the promotional videos for his new album.

“I don’t trust performers that are only dark,” Eitzel said. “And I am pretty bleak. I’ll admit it. I don’t know if I would listen to me all the time. I like it when people make me laugh as well.”

Speaking of darkness: Eitzel survived a heart attack last year, and his AMC bandmate Tim Mooney died this year from a blood clot. The brushes with mortality affected Eitzel’s life, but not his songwriting, at least not yet.

“It is life changing, but in terms of the music I haven’t really come to terms with it,” Eitzel said. “I gotta lose another 10 pounds. It’s on that level. My spiritual discovery is actually based on losing 10 pounds.”