The Fret Drifters at Bella Union

Guitarist Andy Casad was shopping for strings at Guitar Center when he met sales rep and fellow guitarist Nick Garrett-Powell.

"He (Garrett-Powell) asked me what kind of strings I needed and what kind of music I played," Casad recalls. "I said, 'I kinda just beat the crap out of my guitar,' and he smiled and said, 'That's what I do too.' We went back to the showroom where they keep the acoustic guitars, and we had a li'l jam that sparked everything."

At the time, Casad was desperate for a new guitarist for his duo, The Fret Drifters. His former guitarist, Ben Comer, had left for college, and Casad needed someone to fill in for several scheduled gigs, including opening Floater at the Rogue Theatre and for Michael Franti at Britt. Garrett-Powell was a godsend and picked up where Comer left off.

Together, the pair beat the crap out of their guitars, strumming and drumming in a manner that is as technical as it is reckless.

"We got bored playing standard chords," Casad says. "During our live shows, in addition to eight-finger tapping, we're head banging and dancing and moving to our music. Whatever we're feeling, we're playing."

The "acoustic madness duo," as the pair often are called, accompanied by drummer Jim Sitter, will play at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 6, at Bella Union, 170 W. California St., Jacksonville. The show is free.

Earlier this year, the duo submitted a video of their recent single, "Love Your Lover," to the International Musicians Exchange and, from the 15 acts that competed, were selected to perform at the Bruthen Blues and Arts Festival next February in Australia.

In the meantime, the Drifters are competing in the quarterfinals of the Southern Oregon's Got Talent competition, judged by guitarist Craig Chaquico, and wrapping up a self-titled EP to be released in early November.

The forthcoming album will feature instrumental and vocal tracks, characterized by the duo's rapid-fire riffs and signature percussion techniques, with elements of contemporary folk, blues, pop and roots music.

In concert, the duo plays a similar mix of styles, including new arrangements of songs by Robert Johnson, the Steve Miller Band and Van Morrison.

"Once, I took a jazz piece that I wrote, and we put a Nine Inch Nails cover to it," Casad says. "You never know what you're going to get at a Fret Drifters' show."

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