Events

Friendly Fires + The Naked and Famous + Cults - Live at SummerStage in Central Park

Friendly Fires' Ed Macfarlane at SummerStage in Central Park (Photo by Mike Katz)

On record, Friendly Fires are a kinetic blend of dance rhythms, massive washes of synthesizers and guitars and the blue-eyed soul yelps of frontman Ed Macfarlane. Live, however, they’re even better, a frenzy of motion from which the noise escapes.

With the punishing humidity and fetid stench of rotting garbage and human waste, summer in New York City is no picnic. Just try telling that to the sea of pink-faced revelers who streamed into Rumsey Playfield on Sunday afternoon (some of whom were actually picnicking with baskets of food and blankets) for a free Central Park SummerStage show headlined by English post-funk outfit Friendly Fires with support from New Zealand-based indie popsters the Naked and Famous and Cults, a New York band who admitted to being more nervous about playing in their own city than they’d been two days earlier at Lollapalooza.

On record, Friendly Fires are a kinetic blend of dance rhythms, massive washes of synthesizers and guitars and the blue-eyed soul yelps of frontman Ed Macfarlane. Live, however, they’re even better, a frenzy of motion from which the noise escapes. In Central Park, there was the standard instrument-hopping and continuous pulse as experienced by this reporter at Coachella two years ago. There was also a two-man horn section helping certain numbers lean a decade further back than the oft-noted ‘80s influence the band seems to revel in. And there was also Macfarlane, one of the most energetic singers trodding the boards today.

Much has been said of Macfarlane’s fondness for exaggerated Jaggerisms (ex-Jaggerated?) on stage, and it must be said that there’s really something to that. Few young bucks even bother attempting to mince and flounce around the way Macfarlane does. There’s an air of the wan socialite in the way the microphone is scornfully held with a limp wrist, dangling there as Macfarlane gyrates and shimmies. And anyone who’s seen Friendly Fires before knows Macfarlane spends so much time in the crowd during his band’s set that he really should have to buy a ticket. You know, unless the show is free.

Because many of the SummerStage shows are free (with donation boxes prevalent at the exits), the crowd is often something of a mixed bag. Without casting aspersions on anyone in particular, it’s not unreasonable to deduce that many of the people who feasted on the bounty of some of Brooklyn Flea’s most popular food vendors and quaffed $8 beers might not have turned up for a regular Friendly Fires show with an actual ticket price. It mattered not, as all three bands on the bill brought the goods in their own way.

Cults were on stage for around 30 minutes, at least half of which sounded pretty much the same: The same beats, same blend of weedy pop and faux-darkness. Cults, a duo, are fleshed out on stage by three musicians, presumably chosen as much for their skill as their huge piles of hair. Madeline Follin is a perfectly fine singer, though her voice occasionally cut through the mix in an unappealingly sharp way. Still, it was hardly an unsuccessful set, and the audience was appreciative.

The Naked and Famous, if I’m being completely candid, probably drew the biggest crowd. Their radio-friendly songs have been featured in popular television shows like The Vampire Diaries and Gossip Girl, and there was definitely sporadic widespread singing along from the audience. With their approachable songs carried on a throbbing electronic pulse and occasional loud guitars, it’s likely popular for the same reason MGMT caught on a couple of years ago. In fact, one of the few low points in their set was probably my own fault, as the outro to one song reminded me a little too much of an ad for consumer electronics company Haier.

For Friendly Fires, the show was an opportunity to showcase songs off their latest album (Pala, which sounded fantastic alongside tracks from their eponymous debut), to possibly develop a wicked sunburn before heading off to Japan for Summer Sonic and to bring some of the energy that led to a stage invasion at Music Hall of Williamsburg in Brooklyn two years ago. They did all that and more. With a fall tour of the US lined up, it’s worth whatever you have to spend to hit one of their shows.

 
Friendly Fires (Photos: Mike Katz)

 
Cults (Photos: Mike Katz)

 
The Naked and Famous (Photos: Mike Katz)

To be a migrant worker in America is to relearn the basic skills of living. Imagine doing that in your 60s and 70s, when you thought you'd be retired.


Nomadland: Surviving America in the Twenty-First Century

Publisher: W. W. Norton
Author: Jessica Bruder
Publication date: 2017-09
Amazon

There's been much hand-wringing over the state of the American economy in recent years. After the 2008 financial crisis upended middle-class families, we now live with regular media reports of recovery and growth -- as well as rising inequality and decreased social mobility. We ponder what kind of future we're creating for our children, while generally failing to consider who has already fallen between the gaps.

Keep reading... Show less
7

Very few of their peers surpass Eurythmics in terms of artistic vision, musicianship, songwriting, and creative audacity. This is the history of the seminal new wave group

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominating committee's yearly announcement of the latest batch of potential inductees always generates the same reaction: a combination of sputtering outrage by fans of those deserving artists who've been shunned, and jubilation by fans of those who made the cut. The annual debate over the list of nominees is as inevitable as the announcement itself.

Keep reading... Show less

Barry Lyndon suggests that all violence—wars, duels, boxing, and the like—is nothing more than subterfuge for masculine insecurities and romantic adolescent notions, which in many ways come down to one and the same thing.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) crystalizes a rather nocturnal view of heterosexual, white masculinity that pervades much of Stanley Kubrick's films: after slithering from the primordial slime, we jockey for position in ceaseless turf wars over land, money, and women. Those wielding the largest bone/weapon claim the spoils. Despite our self-delusions about transcending our simian stirrings through our advanced technology and knowledge, we remain mired in our ancestral origins of brute force and domination—brilliantly condensed by Kubrick in one of the most famous cuts in cinematic history: a twirling bone ascends into the air only to cut to a graphic match of a space station. Ancient and modern technology collapse into a common denominator of possession, violence, and war.

Keep reading... Show less
10

This book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Marcelino Truong launched his autobiographical account of growing up in Saigon during the Vietnam War with the acclaimed graphic novel Such a Lovely Little War: Saigon 1961-63, originally published in French in 2012 and in English translation in 2016. That book concluded with his family's permanent relocation to London, England, as the chaos and bloodshed back home intensified.

Now Truong continues the tale with Saigon Calling: London 1963-75 (originally published in French in 2015), which follows the experiences of his family after they seek refuge in Europe. It offers a poignant illustration of what life was like for a family of refugees from the war, and from the perspective of young children (granted, Truong's family were a privileged and upper class set of refugees, well-connected with South Vietnamese and European elites). While relatives and friends struggle to survive amid the bombs and street warfare of Vietnam, the displaced narrator and his siblings find their attention consumed by the latest fashion and music trends in London. The book offers a poignant and jarring reminder not just of the resilience of the human spirit, but also of its ability to seek solace in the materiality of one's present.

Keep reading... Show less
8

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow shines on her impressive interpretation of Fontella Bass' classic track "Rescue Me".

Canadian soul singer Elise LeGrow pays tribute to the classic Chicago label Chess Records on her new album Playing Chess, which was produced by Steve Greenberg, Mike Mangini, and the legendary Betty Wright. Unlike many covers records, LeGrow and her team of musicians aimed to make new artistic statements with these songs as they stripped down the arrangements to feature leaner and modern interpretations. The clean and unfussy sound allows LeGrow's superb voice to have more room to roam. Meanwhile, these classic tunes take on new life when shown through LeGrow's lens.

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

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

rating-image