Straight up: I didn’t want to go to last night’s Frightened Rabbit show at the Cat’s Cradle. I was tired, I’m old, the weekend had already been busy and long, it was a late start on a Sunday night, there were two openers I’d never heard of, I knew it was close to sold out and I’d have to contend with teenagers and hipsters to get a decent spot to shoot — I was annoyed at myself for having bought a ticket in advance, because I won’t burn a ticket I’ve already paid for, which locked me into going, and all I really wanted to do was sit on the couch and watch the Braves/Mets game in my pajamas.
Straight up: the Frightened Rabbit show last night was one of the best sets I’ve seen all year. I’ve seen bands I love more, I’ve seen sets that left me shakier and more stunned by their beauty, but quietly, solidly, across the board, last night’s show was goose-bump-raising excellent. So it was worth going. More than worth going.
Before the show, I hadn’t given much thought to how complex, sonically, Frightened Rabbit’s music is. I listen to it and I hear Scott Hutchison’s shiver-inducing voice, and the joyous choruses of heartbreaking mind-bending lyrics, but I don’t necessarily hear the music. And I probably would never have, until I saw everything that the band loaded into the stage for their set — a wall of three guitars, several keyboards, a laptop, all pinned down by Billy Kennedy’s bass and Grant Hutchison’s bone-rattling drumming. (Grant Hutchison is an amazing drummer, for what it’s worth; another thing I’d probably never have noticed on their studio stuff if I hadn’t heard it live.)
I think of them as a quiet band, because Midnight Organ Fight is such a sad and subdued album, but I think, now, that they might be at their best loud — there’s a lot of joy that flows out when they play live, and even heartbreakers like “My Backwards Walk” (an evening highlight for me) sound somehow fuck-you hopeful instead of woe-is-me sad. And the singles, the stunners, from The Winter of Mixed Drinks — the shouty chorus of “Swim Until You Can’t See Land” and the time-to-grow-up resignation and hope of “Living In Colour” — just kill live. I think I’ll appreciate the albums more, now, having seen them live and heard what a five man line-up can do for those songs. I know I’ll hear more of the depth in the sound, for sure.
The hipsters, some of them, danced, which is no small feat. And to be quite frank, I could listen to Scott say “fuck” in that perfect accent of his for days and never get tired of it. (Sorry, Mom.)
Bad Veins (above) and Maps & Atlases were part of the excellent evening as well; I’m getting too old to suffer through shitty openers, so this year has for the most part been good on that part (Truckers opening for themselves, a Suburban Home line-up plus a beloved local for Tim Barry’s show, 45 minutes of Benji Hughes good times, etc). But when I’m not familiar with either of the two openers, I’m a little wary — last night, I shouldn’t have been. Bad Veins play guitar + drums electronic-indie-rock complete with singing songs through a rotary telephone (as shep. said to Twitter, what will the kids think of next) and Maps & Atlases reminded me of a band somewhere between Built to Spill and Blitzen Trapper (the latter might just have been the lead singer’s beard, though). They’re both solidly interesting and enjoyable bands; they get my highest stamp of opener approval, in that I would go see them headline a show at the 506 for $10. (I am lazy and cheap, but if you can get me to part with ten bucks on a weeknight, you’re doing something right.)
I think, besides the music, watching the drummers was my favorite part of the whole evening — all three bands have supremely dynamic drummers, both physically and musically, and I am if nothing else always a sucker for a good drummer and a kick drum I can dance to.