Only suckers try to get their songs on the radio anymore. The truly savvy musicians know the real action is in TV/movie placement, somewhere Five Times August - the nom de stage of Dallas native/resident Brad Skistimas - has excelled of late. The singer-songwriter landed "Save It for Later" on MTV's A Shot at Love with Tila Tequila 2 ("the season finale," he pointed out) and really started turning some heads when "Better With You" surfaced on that network's Laguna Beach.
A scruffier, equally charismatic James Blunt, Five Times August is like catnip for the ladies. Of the 40 or so people on hand at Mojo last night (every seat was full), about 80 percent were female, of the well-off, white, not-quite-out-of-college-yet variety; the dress code was summer top (blouse, tube or spaghetti-strap halter), jeans and flip-flops or heels. Several gazed at Skistimas like he was the second coming of Brad Pitt or Keanu Reeves. Meanwhile, their male companions (what few there were) invariably had on either a golf shirt or ballcap... but never both.
Musically, Five Times August's songs are acoustic accounts of breakups and hookups, heartfelt if largely innocuous: catchy, strummy, even a little funky in that acoustic white-guy way. Fleetwood Mac's Lindsey Buckingham is an obvious, profound influence, to which Skistimas readily copped before a meandering, wistful cover of "Landslide." Another, apparently, is certain '90s sitcoms, at least judging by the YouTube popularity of his version of the Fresh Prince of Bel-Air theme song.
One-chord ballad "Up to Me" had strong overtones of Smashing Pumpkins' Billy Corgan, while "Beautiful Girls" - which Skistimas took care to see no one confused with last summer's Sean Kingston hit of the same name - was gleaming acoustic power-pop that could translate very well to a full-band arrangement. Witty, too, sometimes; in a song about his favorite record shop, he wished for an "import version of you."
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Mrs. Five Times August watches her man.
All in all, Skistimas sounded almost exactly like he looks: friendly, a little reedy, like he just got out of bed. Traveling with wife/manager/merch girl Kelly - "If there's anything you want to hear, just shout it out," she told one almost-latecomer - Skistimas has pared his operation down to the bare essentials: a guitar, a few T-shirts and CDs, mailing list that swells by the gig and a clutch of songs no one will ever confuse with Bob Dylan or Leonard Cohen, but had no problems radiating their own bedheaded, MTV-reality-show charm. - Chris Gray