Monday, June 06, 2016

over the edge i can't stop myself

Ace of Spades was on the rock tourist list for Frightened Rabbit's last tour, three years ago. I even bought a ticket, but alas, it didn't work out. However, now with a new record from the band and a new recruit among friends, I had to go northward.

Frightened Rabbit, the Regency Ballroom, May 26, 2016: Rock tourism is no bother for me, but the drive up to Sacramento was one of the more exhausting journeys I've taken in a while. Granted, it was a holiday weekend, and I'm not generally used to traffic, and I saw four accidents along the way, but the four-hour drive (double the usual time in average conditions) was brutal. Luckily, I had left work early and was in no rush, but at least the first half of the trip put my, at worst, cross-town ventures in perspective.

Anyway, I had no doubt the drive would be worth it. Ace of Spades was a smaller, clubbier venue than the Regency in San Francisco; it reminded me of Slim's back in the city and probably a million other places around the country. Due to the limited real estate, the band stripped back their stage setup -- the backdrop (based on the album cover) was gone, and maybe some lights were left out. Overall, this is exactly my kind of venue, and sometimes you have to get behind the wheel to find the ones that remain.

Not surprising, the band stuck to mostly the same setlist, save for one track: the perennial favorite "Poke," which popped up again in Scott's solo portion, thanks to a fan request. Less successful was the fan somewhere in the crowd who yelled out repeatedly for "Swim." I assume he meant "Swim Until You Can't See Land," but Scott was not having it. He mentioned the fact that the band had already prepared a setlist, but besides, he confessed he couldn't remember it anyway. This didn't stop the guy, and the back and forth continued through the set.

At this point, I gotta figure it's part of the artist's MO -- maybe it's nice to have a foil and focal point for your banter. To my ears, Scott never crossed the line into outright annoyance, though he called the guy a cunt. Then again, if you know anything about Scottish insults, you know it's practically the first word young Scots learn. Perhaps to be on the safe side, Scott offered a quick lesson to the crowd on the Scottish lexicon.

The conversation between Scott and the concertgoer actually brought to mind one of my old rules of rock tourism: Go to the last show of the tour when you can. The band can often be looser, goosier, and generally more playful. Chalk it up to relief, weariness, burnout -- whatever. Quite often, it adds up to a memorable night.

I haven't seen a show in Sacramento for a while now, but it easily qualifies as a tertiary market, and you know how much I dig tertiary markets. The crowd was a little less familiar with the old tracks, and they couldn't sing as well as we did in San Francisco. But I love that Ace of Spades and Frightened Rabbit have taken a chance on each other. I hope they keep it going.

See also:
» there is light but there's a tunnel to crawl through
» found a vein and a pulse
» some people gonna get ideas

Sunday, June 05, 2016

found a vein and a pulse

Frightened Rabbit is the last band (though hopefully not the last band) I fell in love with, and shocker -- I'm crazy about the new record. I could barely wait for Frightened Rabbit's return to San Francisco at the Regency Ballroom.

Frightened Rabbit, the Regency Ballroom, May 26, 2016: You gotta love a band that tours its heart out and brings the music to the people. After almost six weeks on the road to promote Painting of a Panic Attack, Frightened Rabbit closed out this leg on the West Coast, and early on, Scott referenced being tired. I'm not entirely sure I would've noticed it if he hadn't brought it up. As far as I could tell, the most revealing road tell was the size of their beards, because the weariness didn't show up in the music.

The band opened with the single (I guess -- I have no idea what qualifies as charts and airwaves and all the lingering details of terrestrial radio) "Get Out" and mixed it up with an evenhanded selection of songs from all but the first record. To tell you the truth, I was kind of surprised the tour was so light on new songs. In addition to "Get Out," the band played "Woke Up," "Break," "Lump Street," and "Die Like a Rich Boy" (the last one in Scott's customary acoustic segment). Personally, I would've loved to hear "An Otherwise Disappointing Life" or "Blood Under the Bridge," to name two, but maybe they'll get to those in subsequent visits.

However, that meant a lot of old favorites got their turn. "Modern Leper," "Fast Blood," "Heads Roll Off," and "State Hospital" were all there, and in fact, a few songs sounded slightly reworked. Most notable to me was "Old Old Fashioned," which sounded a little more like the version we heard on the Owl John tour. At the same time, I was curious to see which songs made the cut, and I'm pleased "Oil Slick" is still one of the favored tracks.

San Francisco has always offered a strong base of support for Frightened Rabbit. The band has put in a ton of work into shows in the city, but I feel their efforts have been rewarded with well-attended and enthusiastic shows. Tonight, I think we gave it back with a wonderful sing-along to "Keep Yourself Warm." Our voices serenaded the band and punched the money lines ("you won't find love in/won't find love in a hole/it takes more than fucking someone/to keep yourself warm"). Was it good for them? Because it was great for us.

Frightened Rabbit, the Regency Ballroom, May 26, 2016

As mentioned above, Scott has retained his solo segment, but it was now only two songs before the band returned for "The Woodpile." Good news for both show veterans and newbies alike: The band has kept its traditional closer of "The Loneliness and the Scream," which when it comes down to it is the only true wish list item I needed. How is that not a football anthem in Scotland? Or is it? Anyway, it needs to happen. Get on it, Tartan Army.

Meanwhile, we have your back in San Francisco, Frightened Rabbit.

See also:
» let's get old fashioned
» her heart beats like a breezeblock

Sunday, May 22, 2016

when u love somebody

Reunions, remakes, reboots -- they're a simple fact of life these days. I'm not crazy about them, but I'm glad I have a choice. Reunions, in particular, make me feel my age, but some are not subject to debate. Thus, there was no hesitation to get to the Fruit Bats, now reassembled.

Fruit Bats, the Independent, May 19, 2016: This is how much I love the Fruit Bats: I went to Eric Johnson's solo show, though I had no idea what to expect. The Fruit Bats are responsible for one of my favorite records of all time, Mouthfuls, and it arrived during a particularly music-heavy era for me. A friend recently posted a reminder of us all on AIM, listening to Mouthfuls and chatting away when we weren't flying and driving to see shows with each other. Oh, the Aughts! It was a good run.

As far as reunions go, Fruit Bats didn't exactly light up the headlines like LCD Soundsystem, but I'm glad they're back (with a decidedly less dodgy reasoning). It appears the Ruminant Band is supporting him again, so they obviously have the chemistry and teamwork under their belts. The shared experience was apparent from the sweet harmonies they added to Eric's already charming melodies.

As mentioned above, Mouthfuls is my favorite, and this show confirmed a suspicion: I like the Fruit Bats a lot better live than I do on record. Obviously, this comes down to personal preference, but their records don't hold my attention, whereas their live representation is all I want in a band, delivering great tunes, voices, musicianship, and energy. They didn't disappoint at all in that regard.

To my ears, Fruit Bats have always been folk music at its core, with a bit of production thrown in. Maybe it's my bias, but now that they're based on the West Coast, I hear so much more of the Laurel Canyon vibe. That's not bad news at all, and in fact, it's still as sweet as ever. When you have Eric's voice, you don't need to do a whole lot to pretty it up.

Fruit Bats, the Independent, May 19, 2016

However, I noticed one big change. Perhaps due to last year's tour with My Morning Jacket, the audience is livelier and more invested than I recall from the last outing. They knew a ton of the songs, and they let the band know it. That has to be a huge lift for the musicians. I hope it carries over for the rest of the tour and beyond.

Alas, the only downside to this revival is the fact that Mouthfuls tends to get left off the setlist. Granted, I know it's been [checks Google] 13 years since its release, but I can name several fantastic tracks from the record, and only one was played. That track was "When U Love Somebody," of course, as the finale. The records that came after Mouthfuls, including the new one, were well represented, but as an old-timer, I would love to hear "Rainbow Sign" (and others).

Before I sign off, I'll repeat again the story of seeing Fruit Bats at Bottom of the Hill approximately 100 [checks Google] 13 years ago, when they played to a small crowd composed of many friends and probably a handful of fans. I'm going to dream of that version of "Purple Rain" for a long time. If Eric ever wants to record it, I'll be the first to download it.

Fruit Bats, Bottom of the Hill, 11-11-03

See also:
» the cub who washed out in the flood
» she couldn't dance but she wanted to
» waiting for the rainbow sign