Franz Nicolay is a man with more instruments than arms to hold them. He is the definition of a showman and a storyteller.
A member of Brooklyn rockers The Hold Steady and punk orchestra World/Inferno Friendship Society, Nicolay, 33, also founded Anti-Social Music, a composer-performer collective based in New York City, and performs in the gypsy troupe Guignolis.
Nicolay will be performing with David Dondero and Radioactive Cauliflower in a show presented by the Downtown Life Magazine on March 25 at Playhouse Merced's Black Box Theatre. Doors open at 7 p.m.
Nicolay has strong views on what a performer should be, and he has an incredible arsenal of instruments to help him share his stories.
"I'll get up there with an accordion, a banjo and acoustic guitar and switch it up," he said of his solo act.
His seven-week tour, which began Feb. 25, takes Nicolay and fellow singer-songwriter Dondero across the United States in support of his new album, "Luck and Courage."
With his album, Nicolay tried to recreate what Kurt Vonnegut coined "nation of two" -- that stage of love when a couple seems to be creating their own self-contained world. He expands the idea and writes the history of the rise and fall of one such country, one inhabited by the titular characters Felix & Adelita -- in Latin and Spanish, luck and courage.
"They're untethered," Nicolay says of the protagonists. "She's a sometime bartender, he's been in the service, he's a little violent and she's a little distant; they don't really live in any one place -- and they've accustomed themselves, at some point, to the idea that ultimately their lives are going to their own responsibility, so that when they find themselves together, almost against their will, their nation of two is doomed before it even begins. They're so used to leaving things behind, they don't remember how to stay -- a battle between the pull of domesticity and the habit of packing up and moving on. And so their story, and the story of their nation of two, becomes the story of a plague-ridden, Cormac McCarthyian country as its society collapses."
Nicolay sees showmanship as one of the most important roles a solo performer has while onstage.
"It's an old-fashioned idea of being an entertainer -- being able to walk into a room with a bunch of strangers and entertain them," Nicolay said. "There's the whole cliché that you'll laugh, you'll cry ... but there's some truth to that."
He describes his style of solo performances as a "vaudeville cabaret act crossed with a singer-songwriter."
So be prepared to laugh, cry and see a true showman.
The all-ages show costs $7. Concessions will be open and beer will be available for 21 and older. Presale tickets are available at J&R Tacos. For more information, go to www.thedlm.com.