Show Review: Fiery Furnaces with Cryptacize at Slim’s, 11/20/09

by Dakin Hardwick on November 21, 2009

Not In Frame: Harry Partch or Harry Patch

Not In Frame: Harry Partch or Harry Patch

The Fiery Furnaces have been in the press quite a bit lately. Not because they put out a record of Fiery Furnace covers, but because of their mythical feud with Radiohead & Beck. My relationship with this band is a little strange. I saw them open for The Shins many years ago, and they blew me away. I ran out to purchase their current record at the time, Rehearsing My Choir, and was taken aback even more. They reminded me of everything the band Caroliner was trying to accomplish, only without the distraction on the costumes. I was hooked for months to this record, but never went further. I kept missing out on new releases, for one reason or another, and whenever they came around, I couldn’t make it. So, this cold November night, I decided to finally see them again.

An error at the box office caused me to miss the opening act, Dent May. From what I was able to hear, it was ukulele-based pop music. It sounded really good, and I’d like to check it out further. We made our way in a few moments before Cryptacize came on. I’ve seen them once before, as the opening act for Ponytail, and felt that they were an odd choice that night, but seemed perfectly placed tonight.

Vocalist Nedelle Torrisi is a very rare singer to encounter in the rock music world. Her pitch was nearly perfect, and her jazz-trained vocal tones were magnificent. She was able to strike a nice balance between technique and emotion that very few singers can accomplish. The band, as a whole, was fascinating. Guitarist Chris Cohen was originally a member of San Francisco’s legendary experimental pop group Deerhoof, and he brought a lot of elements from his old band, primarily the use of swift time signature changes, but kept things very accessible. The audience was receptive, although it’s hard to gauge whether or not people enjoy this brand of music, because it doesn’t elicit the same kind of response that a dance band or a rock band would. It’s very cerebral, but not off-putting. It was also a rare show where I was actually sad when they told us that they were about to play their final song.

When the Fiery Furnaces came out, the ended up being very different from what I was expecting. The band that I saw in 2005 was a very odd experimental band that strangely reminded me of The Carter Family. Tonight, they came out as a ferocious garage rock band. It was night and day! Singer Eleanor Friedberger may not have been channeling Janis Joplin, but she was definitely trying . Her voice may not be the most powerful on Earth, but she knew how to make it work, and was a captivating live performer, nonetheless.

Despite coming off as a traditional “rock” band, they made sure to keep the experimentalism coming. It felt like they were borrowing a page from opener Cryptacize, by keeping the songs strange, but making sure you can still hum along, or in this case, dance. It was a mysterious balance, one that few bands can employ. Songs shifted from 4/4 to 6/8 to some ungodly rhythm within a 3 minute song, and the crowd managed to keep up. I have experienced such energy from an audience at an experimental music show.

The band hardly spoke to the crowd, nor did they ever really take breathing space between songs. By the end of the set, the unexpected elements of the band became so familiar, that I almost felt like I was at a Ramones show. (The nonstop pogoing didn’t hurt, either). Guitarist Matthew Friedberger spent most of the early part of the show just playing chords, but by the encore decided it was time to start shredding, and a handful of longhaired guys proceeded to head bang along to some brutal & fierce guitar solos. The quirky garage rock band had evolved in to art-metal, and the audience played along! Fists were in the air, and the energy level actually increased! ┬áIt was great!

They band ended up playing a second encore, only because the crowd wouldn’t let them go. The fans were some of the most passionate fans I had encountered at an indie show in ages.

Since I had realized that I was less familiar with the band than I thought, I couldn’t crib a set list, but one of the fans let me take a picture of his, so here you go:


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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Marie Carney November 21, 2009 at 1:37 pm

Yes, it was weird to dance to but we did it!
Nedelle’s dancing was particularly impressive, she was rocking out when there was no discernable beat to me, but I guess that’s kind of her job.


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