Frightened Rabbit: 17 October 2010 - Tempe, AZ

Andrew Watson
Photo: Jannica Honey

Frightened Rabbit is well-deserving of the mass appeal that somehow, for some reason, continues to barely elude them.

Frightened Rabbit

Frightened Rabbit

City: Tempe, AZ
Venue: The Clubhouse
Date: 2010-10-17

I started going to rock shows when I was 15. What I remember most about those first couple experiences (Beastie Boys, Red Hot Chili Peppers, U2) was the sheer spectacle and size of it all. It felt mysteriously grown up and scary to be in a huge room with thousands of strangers, many of whom were experiencing levels of intoxication I had yet to become aware of, and to be a visible part of such humanistic mass, clearly separate yet bound somehow by the unifying magic of live sound was truly amazing. Big arena shows like that leave an indelible mark on impressionable young Midwestern boys. I was hooked, essentially, from the start. Fast forward 20 years and however many thousands of shows later and I still get the buzz in my gut when the house music finally shuts off and the talent begins ambling into position.

I had seen Frightened Rabbit before, in a venue quite similar to the Clubhouse’s intimate confines, but not since the new record The Winter of Mixed Drinks and not since they’d expanded into a 5-piece (new Rabbit, ex-Make Model guitarist/keyboardist Gordon Skene). I was supposed to see these Scots back in April, on the eve of what was to be their triumphant, stardom-inspiring Coachella set. Than Eyjafjallajokull erupted. Remember him? That pissed off Icelandic volcano? Frightened Rabbit, if they never truly reach the upper strata, may just look back on that bloody eruption as the de facto speed bump that halted their ascendance from the second-tier level of indie rock bands. With all flights out of Europe grounded indefinitely, the Rabbit missed their big Coachella slot, postponed their massive American tour, and sat on their tuffets in dreary old Glasgow, downing pints and bemoaning their cursed heritage I imagine, which is precisely what makes this tour that much more important. 2010 has been an unmitigated triumph for independent music. There have been loads and loads of great records released this year. The Winter of Mixed Drinks is among those ranks, yes, but a successful tour often makes a record greater, if not more memorable. Frightened Rabbit’s chances of regaining the unbridled momentum generated by 2008’s masterful The Midnight Organ Fight rest squarely on the shoulders of this record, and thus, this tour. If I might speak on behalf of the couple hundred in awed attendance on this night, consider the ship righted.

The band began with new album opener “Things”, its slow-building dirge becoming a rousing outro of white noise before seizing up suddenly and giving way to the strummed first notes of “The Modern Leper”, arguably the band’s best track. That they play it so early in their set not only speaks to their bravery, but to the breadth of their suddenly vast catalogue as well. The crowd feels it from the start, temporarily ignoring the sweltering Arizona heat, focusing instead on shouting along with Scott Hutchinson word-for-word and pogo-ing like London punks. By the time they get to the brittle heart of the MOF material (“Good Arms vs. Bad Arms”, “Head Rolls Off”, “I Feel Better”) we are all, band and audience, soaked in sweat and grinning like thieves. The arrangements are varied, loose and impeccably rendered. They made it clear early on that they were treating this tour as more than just a We Sure Are Sorry About That Volcano tour, but also like a Hey We May Not See You for a While tour as well, and thus felt compelled to cram in as many songs as possible.

The Winter tracks melted in nicely alongside the more familiar stuff, particularly stand-outs “Not Like You” and “The Wrestle”. The band even dusted off “Be Less Rude” from their debut Sing the Greys, scratching an itch for me that I figured would never get scratched. Frightened Rabbit records make great use of the studio, and their songs can occasionally come off a little thin in a live setting, or at least I thought so the last time I saw them, but Skene’s contributions (not to mention his gorgeous, I repeat gorgeous white hollow body Gretsch) do a wonderful job of filling in the gaps and solidifying the Rabbit’s distinct sound. His keys on “The Twist” added a layer of melody to that track that seemed absent as a 4-piece performance.

Hutchinson’s brother Grant is a sight to behold on drums as well. He plays no fills, going from one aggressively bashed out pattern to the next with no transitions and surprising dexterity. It’s the kind of detail that goes unnoticed by most, I guess, but for a drum-fanatic like me, he makes for great viewing.

They closed the set proper with a revved up version of “Keep Yourself Warm”, inviting Sebastien Schultz of show openers Bad Veins to assist on stand-up Toms. The song’s brutal, insular lyrics made for a curious counterpoint to the rapturous reception and overall sense of oneness heaped back upon them by the audience. A sentiment like “You won’t find love in a hole / It takes more than fucking someone / To keep yourself warm” doesn’t seem like a rallying cry, but in the right setting it becomes just that. It was a loud, head-spinning conclusion to a brilliant set. A suitable, three-song encore followed (“Poke” “The Twist” “The Loneliness”) and we were sent back into the desert night, ears ringing. If we are to believe what we’ve been told, this may be our last glimpse of Frightened Rabbit for some time. If that is the case, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who’s seen this tour and left unsatisfied. This band is well-deserving of the mass appeal that somehow, for some reason, continues to barely elude them.

Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.