A Little Drop of Poison

Jack-of-all-trades Andrew Goldfarb brings his macabre one-man band and medicine show to town

The Slow Poisoner’s music is strange, to say the least. Think midnight in a graveyard, but with a playful rhythm. Or “a cross between David Bowie and Johnny Cash—like a hoedown on Mars.” This is how Andrew Goldfarb describes his eccentric one-man band, which features one man singing, strumming a guitar and kicking a bass drum.

Not content with just making sounds onstage, the San Franciscan also creates artwork—acrylic on cardboard—that he displays to illustrate the name and vibe of each song. And the songs offer ample opportunity for illustration. Take “Magic Casket” (also the name of his latest album), with throaty, monotone vocals, Goldfarb sings: “If there’s no feathers on your wing/Just flap your exoskeleton” and “I worked a nightshift with a syphilis kiss.” Meshing the macabre and surreal with 1950s rock, Goldfarb counts Elvis Presley and Salvador Dalí as his biggest inspirations. But sometimes those inspirations don’t play well with others. Case in point, The Slow Poisoner used to be The Slow Poisoners, a five-man outfit. But as the years passed, the numbers dwindled. In 2003 the self-proclaimed control-freak and part-time substitute teacher started his own record label, Rocktopus Records. Goldfarb has been performing solo since 2005, with three albums and a fourth—let’s call it rock-opera-esque—on the way.

But when you go to Goldfarb’s show, you get more than just a performance. His merch table is like a bizarre bazaar. He makes and sells, for example, medicine, acrylic-on-velvet paintings and a comic book series called Ogner Stump’s 1,000 Sorrows. The Genuine Slow Poisoner Miracle Tonic’s label says it cures “consumption and Elephantiasis, barnacle and boils, lavender fever, disinterested bladder and general wasting.” The effectiveness of the medicine is questionable, but the probability of having fun, or at least being entertained, is as good as guaranteed.

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