I have no intentions of giving up rock tourism, but if it ever comes to pass, at least I know my hometown ranks up there in terms of cool gigs and uncommon engagements, such as Frightened Rabbit's acoustic show at the Rickshaw Stop.
Frightened Rabbit, Rickshaw Stop, May 18, 2010: I like to think I've disabused myself of many rock 'n' roll myths, but I reserve the right to cling to certain beliefs. Chief among them is the idea that the best musicians place playing live on par with breathing and need to gig at least as much as--or maybe more than--we need to see them.
Oh sure, I know live shows are more often than not where bands make money. Also, you couldn't pay me to listen to some of rock's so-called road warriors. But dammit if it doesn't warm my heart when musicians carve out another live date when they could be lollygagging around town--and bonus points for those musicians who promise to go through more than the de rigueur promotional motions.
Which brings us to Frightened Rabbit and the group's somewhat slapdash acoustic gig at Rickshaw Stop, a day ahead of their first ever gig at the Fillmore. Lead singer Scott Hutchinson reminded us as much in his early remarks, requesting that we take it easy on them, as they still considered it their day off. He hardly needed to; if they were firing on anything less than all cylinders, the mind boggles on what they'd pull off at full throttle. Rather, the band hit songs old and new, chatted amiably, attempted an unexpected cover--and made it clear they could become the next world-changing band if they keep crafting such majestic, momentous songs.
You can say this gig boasted two atypical angles: the acoustic setup and the intimate surroundings. I normally eat up any show that can claim either credential, so you can imagine what the combination does to me--and you'd be right. Frightened Rabbit would have to fuck up big time to ruin this concert, but of course that didn't happen in the least.
Frightened Rabbit pulls few (if any stops) in its music; in any arrangement, their songs deliver a full load of petty tiffs, ugly grudges, and shameful urges. But compared to their plugged-in equivalents, which can sweep you up in their bombast and ferocity, their works when rendered acoustically leave you no choice but to hear the words, contemplate the events that inspired them, and possibly admit to nursing some of the same thoughts. Not that it was anything approaching gloom and doom--even in this supposedly laid-back environment, they were relentless, and their undeniable ardor came through.
The show was filled with highlight after highlight, but several moments stood out among the multiple crescendos. Early in the show, when the band broke out in layered harmonies for "Good Arms vs. Bad Arms," it hit me that I could be witnessing the future biggest group in the world. It's only a matter of time before these songs are accompanied by thousands of voices singing along.
As if we weren't already insanely grateful to the show's promoters for bringing Frightened Rabbit to the Rickshaw Stop, their cred jumped another notch when Scott opened the encore by granting their request: the National's "Fake Empire," leading into "Poke." Granted, the intention may have been more commendable than the execution, but the gesture did not go unnoticed. Also, given the circumstances, no one could fault Scott for using a lyric sheet with this one-off.
From there, Scott ushered in the "request-o-matic" section and gamely carried out the audience suggestions he could hear. The guy in front of me got in a great one with "Head Rolls Off." Additionally, extra credit goes to his friend, who noted that the band played "Be Less Rude" at their show at the Independent last year--not, in fact, for the first time in three years as Scott claimed.
In the midst of their typically passionate performance, the band showed a lighter side, bantering easily and glibly about the club's rules (specifically the $300 penalty for shitting in the dressing room), urging us to help ourselves to the bucket of Voodoo Doughnuts transported directly from the Portland landmark, and gulping down the Hamm's beer provided. I've never subscribed to the theory that you have to be miserable to make miserable (in the best way possible) music, and I'd challenge anyone to take in a show of this quality and disagree.
Update: Check out the video of the show!
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