Just came back from a special pre-show performance from these guys at Rough Trade Records in Williamsburg, and thought it was a great opportunity to take my daughter to her first show. It was small, intimate and she digs FR almost as much as I do, and after we left, that infatuation in both of our hearts grew just a wee bit more.
Rough Trade is a pretty damn cool place, an old school record store, much like the ones I saved up my allowance for growing up to visit bimonthly to check out what CD Singles I could score hidden behind major band’s albums (for the b sides of course). And the woman who was handling the show, which you got free tickets for if you pre-ordered the album at RT before hand, Andy was wonderful to our little girl, making sure she felt comfortable as she chatted her up about purple and pink, as did the charmed young women on line in front of us, who shared matching hairbands to our girls shoes. nestled on North 9th Street just a brief walk from the East River and gorgeous midtown views it was quite the perfect venue for a small intimate “Brooklyn” concert hall.
After a few minutes, the impatience started to show on our girl and there were only so many distractions I could use to keep her occupied. “Oh, listen, you can here Scott singing,” worked only a few times as Scott Hutchinson, lead singer and songwriter for the band, belted out sound checks from the stage behind the shuttered grey doors. “Stand in front of the picture, I’ll take your ‘My First Concert’ photo!”
As a kid, I grew up clinging to my Smiths cassettes for dear life. Music was a great refuge for a kid who just never felt like he belonged. The melancholy was almost as self assuring to a miserable teenager growing up on Staten Island as was a mother’s arms, sometimes even more. Staten Island was a place that wasn’t too kind to folks who were “different” or the least bit creative as I was and knowing that there were other people who felt the same way was comforting. Frightened Rabbit has a similar feel to their music for the adult version of me, with many themes to their sound that speak directly to my soul. From religion, to relationships, to self doubt, the songs of Frightened Rabbit, all delivered with wonderfully dosed humorous self deprecation, feel like they could be written specifically for me. Songs like “Holy”, “Heads Roll Off” and “Modern Leper” speak directly to those themes and all three were played last night with aplomb and sounded as good as ever. They also mixed in some terrific new tunes that really hit the mark as well.
The mixture of working out hard daily and having a few drams after dinner at times leave my thirty nine year old body hurting the next morning when I get up at 5AM to prepare for the day. “Woke Up Hurting”‘s brushstrokes, from their new LP Painting of a Panic Attack, depicted many of my early mornings groggily getting out of bed aching for more sleep, and was followed by the fitting “Wish I Was Sober”, also off their newest, and long awaited masterpiece.
What was also a neat element to the performance was that it was being recorded by Fordham Radio’s WFUV (http://www.wfuv.org/) and will be broadcast, along with a 5 minute interview about the process behind the new album at 9PM on April 12. It was incredibly refreshing to hear that the creative template for this album was laid down right here in Brooklyn, as well, just like Yellow Hook shirts and ties. During the brief interview, a top my shoulders, the impatient little girl came back out and leaned over to whisper, “Daddy, when are they going to start the music?”. “Soon baby, soon.”
Scott went on to discuss with the host from FUV how the skeleton treks for this album were laid down differently than in the past. Working remotely from the rest of the band in The National’s Aaron Dessner’s studio in Ditmas Park, Scott Hutchinson laid the foundation of the new album and while I’d love to say it has a distinctly “Brooklyn” sound to it, I think it has more of a Frightened Rabbit sound to it, which should be music to any FR fan’s ears.
But it’s an older sound, and the songs musically and lyrically are a little more mature than albums past, and way more real. While their last record, Pedestrian Verse, spoke of similar themes, they seemed to paint with much broader strokes. The new stuff is way more intimate, way more personal, tiny brushes used to paint the canvas that is Painting of a Panic Attack. It carries those same Frightened Rabbit themes through in a way that should connect to the listener on a much deeper level, rather than speaking in metaphor, and the song titles reflect that.
It was that simple intimacy that really shone through in what for me was the show stopper, literally and figuratively. Towards the end of the 45 minute set, the rest of the band took off, and Scott was left solitary, center stage with an acoustic guitar and a microphone. With just some simple finger picking and his voice, he gave the audience the show’s masterpiece, “Die Like A Rich Boy”. If you’ve ever been in love, and broke, as most young couples have, this song with hit straight at your heart. My daughter, at this point off my shoulders, sitting on the amplifiers in front of us adjacent to stage right, gently leaned her head on my shoulders and gazed adoringly at the man center stage with the guitar in hand and whispered, “This is so beautiful,” to which all I could do was smile, nod and rest my head atop of hers. You can catch the tail end of it from their recent Glasgow performance here:
Lastly, the boys finished off a set with their most popular trek, for my girl anyway, off of Pedestrian Verse. “The Woodpile”, who’s video was shot a stone’s throw from Rough Trade over in Long Island City, is a song about being saved by love, and that love got our girl back to bopping her head and dancing on my shoulders. Slowly making our way to the back, before the 200 plus would make their exit, we passed the merchandise stand. “Daddy, can I have a tee shirt?” “One Grey, the smallest you got please,” for one happy little girl and her proud daddy, as she left her first show. She’s now officially a member of the club, and it served a wonderful reminder for me, of just how powerful live music and love can be.
See you on May 5th boys, and I’m sure we’ll get some more Frightened Rabbit themed product names in the not too distant future.