(Photo straight out of camera. I’m quite proud, if I do say so myself.)
Even though my night ended up with me being stranded outside the Showbox because my car got locked in a parking garage, I look at it as a “glass-half-full” night. Because a.) Frightened Rabbit was in town again to start off their fall tour, and b.) the lighting at the Showbox was better than I’ve seen it in at least a couple of months.
Starting out the night was the adorably lo-fi Bad Veins, who definitely deserved to be higher on the bill. Just the two guys on stage made for a different kind of performance, because I’m so used to at least four people on stage. It makes you pay attention to each band member more closely because there are so few of them. Lead singer Benjamin Davis basically stood in one place, but amped it up with an altered mic stand featuring an old-school corded phone that fed into an equally as old school voice recorder which sat in the middle of him and drummer Sebastian Schultz, who made up for the lack of people on stage with his charming effervescence.
I figure the phone-recorder set up was the cheaper alternative to an actual talk box, and it worked really well with the laid-back, hook-laden retro indie pop. “Falling Tide” and the lovely “Gold and Warm” and “The Lie” are alone enough to go buy their debut album, out now. Seriously. Do it.
Plants and Animals were up next, who weren’t bad. They just left me, as well as the rest of the audience, a little bit cold. The songs seemed to drag on in the middle of the set, and we were all pretty anxious to see some of our favorite Scotsmen. And Bad Veins were just so darn good.
“Undone Melody” was a beautiful 6-minute epic, though. That’s partially why their set seemed to drag – because on average, their songs were 2 minutes longer than Bad Veins’ songs. The one thing I did like particularly about Plants and Animals was the instruments they used. Lead guitarist Matthew Woodley played several different guitars throughout their set, but one specifically was so weathered that it matched up perfectly with their on-record sound. Plants and Animals only records to tapes, so it could easily sound like it was recorded now or in 1975, which is a refreshing change-up from the digital world that we currently live in. And the live show almost lived up to the feeling, but just fell short of the analog-only sound.
Walking on stage still with an internal body clock that said it was 7 a.m., Frightened Rabbit pushed through the lack of sleep to put on an amazing show. And not just for Thursday. It would have been equally as amazing if it were on a Friday or Saturday.
Starting off with the first track from their third album A Winter of Mixed Drinks, “Things” had just the right amount of positive vibe to set the mood for the show. After that came “The Modern Leper,” “Nothing Like You,” and “The Twist,” all intermixed with some particularly nice words from Scott for one of our local radio stations KEXP, which was in the midst of a fundraising week.
“KEXP is the most important U.S. radio station for fledgling British bands,” he said, which was then met by a huge round of applause and “woop-woop”s. It was nice to hear some praise for one of the only stations around that doesn’t have commercial motives, and hasn’t fallen into the cliché “Seattle music” trap (i.e. playing at least one Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains song every hour, often the same one several times a day). But all of Scott’s gushing for Seattle was completely sincere, which is one of the things that I enjoy so much about Frightened Rabbit – that they’ll cuss like sailors, play after being awake for an obscene number of hours, but love every minute of it.
“We played this stage about three years ago, when we came through supporting Pinback, and we thought that this room was fucking huge,” Scott said, “And well, it still is, I suppose. But thanks for filling it up!”
The last time Frightened Rabbit played Seattle wasn’t actually all that long ago – in May at Neumo’s, which is a considerably smaller venue, but this time the show wasn’t any less intimate.
During “Foot Shooter,” most of the band – Andy Monaghan, Gordon Skeene, Billy Kennedy – sat idly for Scott to perform a particularly beautiful acoustic version of the song with brother Grant Hutchison on drums.
“When you play a song this many times, you wanna change it up sometimes.” Amidst the complete silence, it actually sent some people into tears.
As a prelude to “Be Less Rude” off their first album Sing the Greys, Scott told a lovely story about when he wrote the song.
“I wrote this when a friend of mine was dating this girl, who was a complete dick. This song was about her.”
How could you get a more simpler plea than “be less rude?”
I failed to mention already that a friend of mine, Susie – who lives in Scotland and has seen Frightened Rabbit close to 30 times – was staying awake through the night to read my tweets from the show because she was “living vicariously through [me].” One of the things that surprised her was the rearrangement of the band’s setlist. I guess for the last two years they’ve been finishing the night with “Keep Yourself Warm” in the encore, but this tour that was no longer the case.
The final song of the normal set list was “Keep Yourself Warm,” the heartbreaking lament off The Midnight Organ Fight which featured a large majority of the crowd singing along to “It takes more than fucking someone to keep yourself warm” before the ascending outro where Andy, Scott, Gordon, Billy, and Grant all played as if it were still the last song of the night. But glancing at the set list, I knew that there were still two songs to go.
Scott started the encore with the stripped-down “Poke,” a beautiful ballad that almost sounded like a lullaby, and like “Foot Shooter,” the audience responded with complete silence. And immediately the rest of the band came on stage after that to play the final song – “The Loneliness and the Scream,” in which Andy gestured for everyone to start clapping along to the driving beat. I didn’t expect for us to be clapping through the entire song, but even though “The Loneliness and the Scream” isn’t a short song, everyone in this awesome crowd threw their hands together the whole time. And nearing the end of the song, our clapping was met with the accompanying “oh whoa ohh whoaaa” to finish out the 19-song set joyously.
I explained it to Susie afterward, who had a hard time comprehending the set list change. Seeing that A Winter of Mixed Drinks was considerably more positive than The Midnight Organ Fight, Frightened Rabbit probably wanted the finale of the live show to be as uplifting as the new album.
They definitely achieved that. Waiting until the end of the show and leaving too late to get my car out of the parking garage before it closed – thus me having to sleep on my friend’s couch and pay an extra $20 the next morning for overnight parking – was totally worth it.
- The Modern Leper
- Nothing Like You
- The Twist
- I Feel Better
- Fast Blood
- Foot Shooter
- Old Old Fashioned
- Swim Until You Can’t See Land
- The Wrestle
- Good Arms vs. Bad Arms
- Head Rolls Off
- My Backwards Walk
- Be Less Rude
- Yes, I Would
- Living Colour
- Keep Yourself Warm
- The Loneliness and the Scream