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What You Missed: Fanfarlo + Freelance Whales

12 Nov

While down the street, the Dirty Projectors were either blowing you away with their complexity or turning you off with the same, at the Triple Rock Social Club, young London-based orch-poppers Fanfarlo were making the room all warm and cozy with their promising arrangements and homespun rock. The sextet just kicked off their first headlining U.S. tour the night before in Chicago and they played the same set it seems as if they have been playing for the latter part of 2009, mostly tracks from their 2009 release Reservoir and a couple of new tunes. The set began quietly, with frontman Simon Balthazar accompanied by mandolin/violin/keys player Cathy Lucas and drummer Amos Memon on stage for “Drowning Men”, but then the pace and volume picked up once the rest of the band filled out the stage. Their stage set, with backing lights and home-made flag strings, set the mood for their folkish arrangements and like an itinerant band of carnival-esque performers or a younger accompaniment to Arcade Fire, or Zach Condon and Beirut, especially with the prominence of Leon Beckham’s trumpet. Their youth was on display (Balthazar complimented a man in the audience on his admittedly impressive biker ‘tache, counter-pointing his own smooth skin) in that things seemed a little shambolic and chaotic as there were multiple instrument switches throughout the set, but they were unafraid to layer on the harmonies, instrumentation and let one song move into the next, as evidenced in the choral transition from “Finish Line” in to “Harold T. Wilkins, Or How To Wait For A Very Long Time”.

Fanfarlo- “Finish Line” in to “Harold T. Wilkins, Or How To Wait For A Very Long Time” from Carl Atiya Swanson on Vimeo.

Openers Freelance Whales had a similar, if more indie-rockish vibe, and coming in late to their set they were engaged in a four part harmonic chant that transitioned into a tune led by a banjo but powered by snappy percussion off the body of the tom and a tin watering can hanging in front of the drummer. The Whales were effusive and seemed to really enjoy themselves on stage- guitar player Chuck Criss told me they enjoyed Minneapolis more than Chicago- and the blend of acoustic and amplified played really well. They just self-released their debut record, Weathervanes, and that promises to be a good listen in the coming months.

Fanfarlo’s set ended sooner than it could have- they notably missed earlier single “Fire Escape” and the cover of Neutral Milk Hotel‘s “In The Aeroplane Over The Sea” that has been floating around the web did not make an appearance. (Although, in all fairness, once you have heard Roma di Luna‘s cover of that tune from their Find Your Way Home disc, you can pretty much let that rest.) Balthazar seemed well pleased with the turnout and the crowd, especially as one girl was carrying a stack of books bound with twine (Antoine de Saint-Expeury’s The Little Prince on top) in response to an internet plea for fresh reading material. With some more road weathering and rehearsal, the sweetness and talent that was shown off Wednesday night could become a well-grounded and lasting thing.

Fanfarlo- “Ghosts” from CakeIn15 on Vimeo.

Fanfarlo Setlist
Drowning Men
I’m A Pilot
Finish Line
Harold T. Wilkins, Or How To Wait For A Very Long Time
Atlas
The Walls Are Coming Down
Waiting In The Wings
Comets
Luna

Encore
Ghosts

See more photos of the night in photos by Staciaann here.

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