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Future of the Left

(29 Oct 2009: Rock and Roll Hotel — Washington, DC)

DC’s account reps, software engineers and quality assurance associates clean out your inboxes, shut down your computers and converge on H Street. This is our Fight Club, and our chance to forget about our boring lives and experience a few hours of grinning, thunderous violence.

The instruments that make up the Future of the Left’s sound meld together with some arcane alchemy. Every sound is precise and clear and unified. The atomic structure of each instrument breaks apart and fuses together in the shape of a single fist, thrusting forward in the direction of the Daily Grind’s face.

Frontman Andy Falkous’s voice sounds venomous on record, but live, it’s pure canine rage. Often forgoing any attempt at lyrical continuity, his words devolve into a series of alternate growls and barks. Bassist Kelson Matthias’s voice is higher pitched and a clearer counterpoint. Drummer Jack Egglestone’s face stretches in a toothy grin as he beats his kit with piston-like regularity.

The band traded good-natured insults with the crowd. It only takes a moment for the band’s amped-up spleen to collapse into goofy smiles and fun banter. Woe to the heckler who attempts to spar with these guys.

I saw a phenomenon at this concert that I’ll never forget. Two girls entered the tiny venue and stood near the back. They banged their heads. They stomped their feet and pumped their fists. And then, I witnessed the most pure rock and roll moment in the history of man. The two girls started signing.

OK, I’ll try to reign in my glee at this sight. I suppose it’s possible that the girls weren’t deaf, but rather just practicing sign language. After all, it’s not like they could’ve heard each other’s voices over the noise. I prefer to believe that Future of the Left rocks so hard, that even deaf people can enjoy them. If any band were capable of providing handicap accessible rock, it’s this one. Their music is as much force as it is sound.

The band closed with a ten minute suite called “Cloak the Dagger”, which is something Falkous describes as being their interpretation of Queensryche. About halfway through, Kelson jumped down from the stage (nothing new there), and started walking through the crowd without missing a beat. After a bit of this, he actually gave his bass to a random audience member and began to run around the room, breakdance and walk around on the floor while doing a handstand. The guitar changed a few hands, and by that time the noise was so loud that the lucky bassist-for-a-day’s ham-fisted strumming sounded just fine. Meanwhile, Andy brought Jack’s drum kit up to the front of the stage, piece by piece, until Jack was left with only a snare. Finally, he moved forward to join the rest of the kit. It was thrilling and participatory. Eventually Kelson’s bass made its way back home, and the band finished up with a throbbing dirge.

Anyone still wondering if Future of the Left can possibly live up to McLusky’s reputation need only catch the band live, if their two superb records have left anyone unconvinced. One guy made the mistake of wearing a McLusky t-shirt to the show. “You’re wearing the wrong shirt,” complained Matthias, who wasn’t in FoTL’s parent band. “That offends me.” As it should…McLusky who?
The turnout was pathetic, even for a venue as small as the Rock and Roll Hotel. There couldn’t have been more than 75 people there. Come on, people. Stop sleeping on one of the most invigorating bands to come down the pike in years.

Cole Stryker covers music for PopMatters from New York.

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