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Metropolis / So Socal

When Rockers Get That Magic Touch

November 18, 2001|MARA SCHWARTZ

"I relate magic to music," says Rob Zabrecky, pondering different showmanship styles. "There's your Kenny Gs, your Nick Caves, your Metallicas. . . ." And Zabrecky, of course, would be your Possum Dixon, given that he's the erstwhile leader of that popular Silver Lake band, which released three albums on Interscope Records in the '90s before breaking up.

But nowadays Zabrecky performs as a magician at local venues such as the Knitting Factory and Spaceland, garbed as the undertaker of his fictional Zabrecky and Sons Funeral Home. Using the motto "R.I.P." (for "Rob is Perceptive"), Zabrecky telepathically predicts audience members' interment preferences and causes items of jewelry to turn up mysteriously in urns.

An alternative rock musician's turning to magic may seem incongruous, but it's not an isolated occurrence around town lately. Zabrecky performs regularly with other magically inclined rockers, including David Lovering, who played drums with Boston-based alternative trailblazers the Pixies, and emcee Grant Lee Phillips, late of Grant Lee Buffalo and Shiva Burlesque (who just released a well-received solo album). "For artists," says Zabrecky, "magic is just another venue to express yourself."

Magic came to Zabrecky while he was touring with Possum Dixon. Trying to beat the summer heat before a gig in Baltimore, he tucked into an air-conditioned magic shop and left with a neat little disappearing-scarf trick. When the band's guitarist broke a string that night onstage, Zabrecky entertained the audience with his newly acquired skills. He eventually mastered enough tricks to be accepted into the members-only Magic Castle in Hollywood, where he performs Fridays, and where Lovering is also a member. Zabrecky has installed a magic theater in his home, a room painted red and equipped with a stage, seating for 10 and a smoke machine for that chilly funereal vibe.

"You can grow a lot older as a magician than you can as a musician," says Zabrecky, 33. "I'd rather see a 60-year-old guy doing card tricks than see, say, Mick Jagger or Steven Tyler."

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