FAIRFIELD — One part The Who at Woodstock, one part traveling medicine show and one part old-time tent revival is how Andrew Griffith describes a Felsen show.
Griffith is the singer-guitarist for the Oakland-based indie band performing Friday at The Rellik Tavern in Benicia.
“There’s a take-no-prisoners attitude at our gigs where audience participation is mandatory and non-negotiable,” Griffith said in an email to the newspaper. “If you don’t want to have fun, maybe you shouldn’t come. I will irritain you (irritate and entertain) until you are a freshly converted Felsen faithful. Lose yourself in the healing power of rock ‘n’ roll or just come and drink beer – your call.”
Griffith began to play the drums as a child. Rock music followed in his early teens. Writing songs on the guitar began when he was about 15.
They were songs for someone else to sing. He fell into the role of the songwriting drummer working with a singer.
In 2006, Griffith was diagnosed with cancer. At the time he’d recently become a father. His health battle became the subject of his songs. Griffith wanted someone else to sing the songs.
“I made the first album, ‘Accidental Drowning,’ essentially by myself with some help from my friends. As it looked at the time, my days were numbered and I wanted to leave something behind for my then-newborn son,” he wrote.
As his health stabilized, Griffith wanted to get out and perform the songs. He put together a band and stepped out from behind the drums. Now he’s the guy up front singing and holding the guitar.
“Five years later, I’m still here. Still rockin’,” Griffith wrote.
Felsen’s fourth album, “I Don’t Know How to Talk Anymore,” contains the band’s trademark song, Griffith said. It’s titled “Rock and Roll’s Not Dead.”
Griffith calls himself a true believer in rock music and said it can change lives and offer hope. He said it’s a high art form in the vein of Beethoven, Shakespeare and Picasso.
People have prematurely pronounced rock music dead, he wrote. Griffith doesn’t believe that and said we’re lucky to be alive at this time because there is so much great music happening.
“We are doing our little part to keep the art form alive and move it forward,” he wrote.
The band has toured the nation and is very familiar with the West Coast. But there’s one venue on Felsen’s list where they would like to perform: San Francisco’s famed Fillmore Auditorium.
Griffith sees it as the holy shrine of rock ’n’ roll and penned a little ditty pleading for a gig: “Dear Bill Graham Presents: You may not know us and you may not know it yet, but you really, really need us. Badly. Trust me. We won’t let you down. Sincerely, Felsen.”
Choosing a favorite songwriter is a much more difficult task than picking a must-play venue. He lists Neil Young, Jeff Tweedy, Gary Louris (The Jayhawks), John Lennon and Paul McCartney, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards, Radiohead, Bob Dylan, the Flaming Lips, Brian Wilson and Waylon Jennings as some of them.
Felsen also includes guitarist Dylan Brock, bassist Christian Hernandez and drummer Art McConnell.