Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Rehearsing My Choir

The Fiery Furnaces @ The Black Cat Washington, DC 10/15/05
First off, I have to thank Carolyn for putting us up on our weekend getaway to the suddenly (or was it always?) very hip and happening U-Street Corridor and Adams-Morgan sections of Washington, DC and making me feel at home. I hadn't met her before and she turned out to be quite a cool person and a good host. Second of all, The Black Cat is conveniently located within a few blocks of her apartment with the great Ethiopian restaurant (I wish I could remember the name; they gave us way too much bread, though) on U Street that we ate at right in between the 2 locales.

However, once we got inside, there was a really lame opener whose name I forgot. They feature the former lead singer of mid '90s buzz-band Jonathan Fire Eater, who I saw once back then. All I'll say about them is that they made me realize why I didn't like Jonathan Fire Eater back in the day (3/4 of JFA went on to become The Walkmen, who are quite good and much better than either JFA or this band that I'm talking about) and that they probably spent way too much time with a bottle of Old Granddad trying to capture the feeling of Exile on Main Street and not quite succeeding.

Onto the Fiery Furnaces, a perennial favorite band of mine. I was looking forward to seeing how their new songs would translate live and hopeful that they would actually play their songs in their entireties instead of going the medley route, which is what they've done the 3 previous times I've seen them in the last year or so. Luckily, they did and it was for the most part a real joy to hear songs from their 1st 2 albums played on their own (though some Blueberry Boat compositions were understandably shortened to fit in with the rest of the material), especially the fast ones like "I'm Gonna Run", which was played way faster than the recorded version, like most of the other songs on this evening. However, when they decided to play fast versions of their slower, more melodic numbers like "Two Fat Feet", it tended to drown out those songs' melodies and hooks and that was a shame. As for the new material, well most of it was played towards the beginning through the middle of the main set in a long 30-minute block. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't all that great, either. They could've had samples of their Grandmother (who handles lead vocal/story-telling duties on their about-to-be-released new album Rehearsing My Choir) along with some kind of backdrop and a Powerpoint presentation to get its point across. For those of you who haven't heard the album, it's not conventional pop/rock or even indie rock at all. It's more like a book on tape that needs to be listened to on headphones and even then it's confounding. The songs just don't work in the context of a regular show. That's just my opinion, of course, but I stand by it. Nevertheless, they were good as always and played with energy, passion, precision and heart and they also have to be one of the most gracious bands on the planet, too, politely thanking the audience after the set for listening. And their new drummer is a dynamo, too.

Now that I've reviewed the band's performance, no Black Cat review would be complete without saying that this is one of most poorly-ventilated clubs I've ever been in. I'm normally ok with smoky bars and clubs (though I don't smoke myself), but this was just too much. I liked the place a lot otherwise, but the ventilation issues almost ruined it for me. Carolyn and her roommate Erin, who attended the show with us, had to leave early (and I don't blame them) and Anne was hanging out in the back near one of the few vents, so I joined her about 2/3 of the way through the show and stayed there until the end of the night. It obscured my view, but at least I could breathe (kinda). Regardless, it was still a fun show in a different environment, but it was great to get some fresh air!

PREVIOUSLY: My review of The Fiery Furnaces @ Webster Hall back in April
My list of the Top 10 records of 2004 (Blueberry Boat made the list at #6)

The picture above was taken by Andy Scheffler and you can also see it here.


Anonymous Sleggie said...

Cool. I noticed you mentioned the Junior Kimbrough cover "I'm Leaving' was good. I'd be interested in swapping to get that mp3...I think I have the FF Beatles' song lying around somewhere.

11:07 AM


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