Two Shows and Two Hundred Miles with Frightened Rabbit [REVIEW]
The first time I listened to Frightened Rabbit was a sunny spring day in 2008, and I didn’t know what the hell I was listening to. I was in your typical “find related artists” black hole – this one started with Maximo Park and ended with “The Modern Leper.”
Upon first impression, The Midnight Organ Fight was raw and (if I’m being honest) kind of gross at times, not to mention really sad, albeit in a hopeful kind of way. It was messy, but the kind you didn’t want to clean up. I wasn’t in any sort of spot in my life to need anything like this album, to get me through anything emotionally or whatever. But something definitely stuck, and I bought it without hesitation, not knowing that I had just stumbled on one of the musical loves of my life. It’s been an earworm that I haven’t been able to shake, going on ten years now.
I saw Frightened Rabbit live for the first time on a snowy January night, not a year after that first listen. They played the Great Scott in Allston, MA, for a paltry $10. Nothing could have been cozier than listening to a wailing Scottish burr in this tiny bar, with blustery weather outside. They played most of The Midnight Organ Fight that night, as well as a bunch of tracks from their debut, Sing The Greys. The raw emotion and energy of set was awesome, not to mention that they were still at that point where they could hang out at the bar immediately afterwards.
Now it’s been ten years since they dropped TMOF, and have subsequently released three additional records. I feel pretty confident in speaking for all Frabbit fans when I say that each record is unique and has carved out a little place in our lives. Their sound has changed over the years, but each iteration brings something new and weird to love.
All this to say that I had the most fortunate circumstance recently, where I was able to see one of my favorite bands play one of my favorite albums in its entirety (front to back), twice last week – in Boston and New York. So without further ado, a review of both tenth anniversary performances.
The Sinclair, Cambridge, MA
The Bowery Ballroom, NYC
Boston: One pre-gig Belhaven at The Haven in JP.
NYC: The Bowery Ballroom was so packed, there was no way I was getting near the bar. The tour was completely sold out, but this seemed beyond that. It had to be.
Boston: Chill, borderline serious.
NYC: Drunk, just going on and on about Father John Misty. We all get it, Father John Misty is a thing. Except you’re at a Frightened Rabbit show?
Both shows had Wintersleep opening – a Frightened Rabbit favorite when touring the US. The Canadian indie rockers put on a solid set, warming up both cities nicely.
I’ve seen Frightened Rabbit in both New York and Boston a bunch of times over the years, and I’ve yet to go to a “bad” show. Or worse, a show that just makes you shrug your shoulders. But I’m probably biased. What I do know is they aren’t ever hit or miss. However, I’ve recently been thinking about Frightened Rabbit’s live performances in these respective cities, and I’ve formulated a hypothesis that’s subjective as hell, but here it is: I think Frightened Rabbit (though they’ll never admit it) have more fun playing in Boston.
So it wasn’t so much an expectation, but a hunch … that the Boston show was going to be better. Probably the best time to compare this, too, as their setlist only changed by one song here and there between cities.
Favorite Part of the Set
Boston: The banter. Lead singer Scott Hutchison was on point chatting away with the crowd, and firing quick-witted replies to an annoying heckler (“Yes, you keep yelling for ‘Scottish Wind’ and that’s fine, only this is The Midnight Organ Fight Show, and you forgot to say something very important when you yelled that… ‘Please.’ Nope! Sorry, it’s too late now. It’s always the men yelling these things, isn’t it… women are never that stupid”). About two songs in to playing the album, he paused and said to the crowd, “Okay, are you guys ready to be really fucking sad for the next half hour?” and laughed as he played the intro to “Good Arms vs. Bad Arms.” Later, towards the end of the set, he stopped and said something like, “I just want to ask – I just want to make sure – are we all good now? From back then when this album came out? Are we okay?” The whole night felt like the magic of sitting around a campfire.
NYC: The banter wasn’t nearly as prevalent as it was in Boston, but the crowd made the wooden floors of the Bowery Ballroom shiver with excitement when Hutchison played the opening chords of The Modern Leper. Also, Peter Katis, who produced The Midnight Organ Fight, was in the crowd. So that was kinda cool. The band seemed tighter musically, and put on a fantastic set, but provided less shenanigans.
Boston: None, really.
NYC: Just the self-important fools who yammered away throughout the concert, shouting over the songs about their cousin Lisa who didn’t like so-and-so’s Instagram post of a baby carrot. Shh.
Best Song Performed
Boston: Good Arms vs. Bad Arms. Always and forever.
NYC: See above.
Something You Saw that the Rest of the Crowd Didn’t Notice
Boston: I forget which song, but near the beginning of the show, it sounded like drummer Grant missed a beat – it was a split second thing. Scott (his brother) played through it, turned towards Grant, and then turned back while throwing out a subtle “okaaay…” eyebrow raise. It was funny.
NYC: The guy in front of me was holding a can of PBR between his teeth, then he squatted down to try to pour it into his mouth “Look Ma, no hands!” style while tapping his buddy on the shoulder to look at him, but his buddy was too into the show to care.
Would You See Them Again?
Yup. And you should, too.