Freelance Whales at Off Broadway, 6/8
June 9, 2010
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Cover of Broken Social Scene’s “7/4 (Shoreline)”
There’s one photograph missing from everyone’s concert sets (yes, even Louis Kwok’s!): the look of near-panicked amazement on Judah Dudone’s face as he gazed across the sea of people and breathed, “Where did you all come from?” Every member of The Freelance Whales wore expressions of surprise, anxiety and more than a hint of joy at the crowd who showed up at Off Broadway last night. I’m well-aware of the flyover shame of St. Louis (Yeah, like that’s a real place!), but as a girl whose 8th favorite fantasy concert is being packed boob-to-backpack in a loft in Brooklyn for a Matt & Kim show at a private party, it still surprises me when bands are shocked that people in the Lou have even heard of them. We have the internets here; we know your songs!!
Maybe it was unfair, but all of my hopes were hung on watching these five people perform a show that would ease the persistent ache from never getting to see Sufjan Stevens live. As soon as I caught sight of the waterphone and the harmonium, I fell apart into a shimmering puddle of fangirl. Glockenspiels were strapped to every synth and keystand, and a galvanized metal watering can sat next to an amp, and on top of the amp, the tin music-box toy that, I have to assume, is used in the track “Danse Flat.” The strap on Doris Cellar’s bass was held on with duct tape, and one of the guitars had their trademark flower stuck on it with clear packing tape. They went straight into “Hannah,” working out the kinks as they came, and every imperfection only made them sweeter.
Nearly every song started with a short shuffle as everyone shared instruments and played whatever was in front of them. “Ghosting” rocked its lovely haintness with a cello bow drawn across the electric guitar strings. By the time they started “Broken Horses,” their freckles were perfectly aligned, the banjo was plucked, harmonies synched, and four minutes of utter perfection unfolded. The lyrics I’d been listening to for months came together and become something more than Sufjanesque, which to date, had been the highest compliment in my personal arsenal. I am not ashamed to admit, I sprung a rock hard Freelance Whaleboner.
When they moved offstage after the vampire syrup of “Kilajoules,” they were tired, hot (Doris had to ask the lighting dudes to douse the spot, due to the heat) and an encore couldn’t possibly top what they’d already accomplished. But I couldn’t stop staring at that watering can. Nobody brings a watering can if they don’t intend to use it. They came back, and it was fascinating to watch them pull together the last of their energy as Dudone announced another cover. HOLY SHIT. Broken Social Scene’s “7/4 (Shoreline)”! The crowd went nuts, and I lost all reason and sense.
Before they started “Generator^2nd Floor,” Dudone told us it was really the last song they could do, but he promised to come back to St. Louis with more songs. Let’s hold him to it. And let’s all be grateful it’s much less likely that five people can decide to focus their attention on large-scale classical music and film projects rather than tour for their fans. (But I still <3 you, Sufjan. Call me!)