Couch Potato

One-hit-wonder bassist warms up America's sofas to finance new CD.

The road to his third and latest solo album has brought Brian Vander Ark closer than ever to his fans. That's because he performed in their homes to pay for his self-titled release. "I raised the money by getting them to book me in their backyards and living rooms," says the 43-year-old Vander Ark, who'll share his music tonight in Cleveland. "I played over 70 of these shows in what I called the Lawn Chair and Living Rooms Tour."The strategy worked, even though a backdrop of plaid couches and barbecue grills is a far cry from the arenas that Vander Ark used to play as the bassist of the Verve Pipe. But the transition was a welcome one for his humbled ego and empty stomach. "I want to set myself apart from the average guy that fronted a post-grunge band in the mid-'90s. For the Living Room tour, I would walk into a house, and I had no idea who the people were. I would just have a guitar, and I would sit at their kitchen counter or in a lawn chair and play for their family and friends. Then they feed you, unlike a lot of clubs out there," says Vander Ark. "I was really trying to knock down the wall of mystery between the performer and the fan."By word of mouth, he also built a loyal audience, who can expect a '70s-style acoustic vibe far different from the Verve Pipe's breakout hit, "The Freshmen." The lyrics also tackle beefs he has with his predominantly white suburban neighborhood and church. "I'm kinda shitting where I eat," says Vander Ark. Showtime is at 8 tonight at the Beachland Tavern, 15711 Waterloo Road. Tickets are $12.50 in advance and $15 at the door. Call 216-383-1124 or visit
Sun., Feb. 17, 8 p.m., 2008