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Video of the Moment #251: Freelance Whales

By on Wednesday, 14th April 2010 at 6:00 pm

Would it be a cliché to say that New York folk/pop band Freelance Whales follow the beat of a different drummer? Wearing sombreros, ponchos and skull masks, the band looks more like they’re preparing for Mexico’s Day of the Dead. The outfits don’t make you think of barren, snowy landscapes, but this quirky video might change your mind. And yes, the watering can I reported in my review of their gig here in D.C. on 06 March? It’s in here too.


‘Weathervanes’, the debut album from Freelance Whales, is released today, 13 April, on Frenchkiss Records / Mom and Pop. It appears from their Web site that the album is already on back order – yikes!


Live Review: Cymbals Eat Guitars with Freelance Whales and Bear in Heaven at Rock ‘n’ Roll Hotel, Washington DC – 06 March 2010

By on Tuesday, 16th March 2010 at 2:00 pm

Cymbals Eat Guitars seem to be spending a lot of time in Britain, having played a series of dates in the UK in February in addition to opening for the Flaming Lips during Wayne Coyne’s band’s London residency last November. But earlier this month they started their first major headlining tour of North America in Philadelphia. The second date of the tour was a sold-out show on 06 March at D.C.’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Hotel. (If you’re interested, I had a brief question and answer session with their newest member, bassist Matt Whipple, the first week of March, and you can read it here.)

The two openers for the night were fellow New York bands – the electro-folky Freelance Whales and the experimental pop band Bear in Heaven. I’ve had the misfortune of missing out on Freelance Whales twice – once, when D.C. traffic wreaked havoc on me and Mary Beth’s plans to arrive early for the Fanfarlo concert early last December at Iota (when FW was supporting the London folk pop band) and twice, they had sold out the smaller Black Cat Backstage floor when I was on the bigger, upstairs floor covering We Are Scientists.

This Saturday night, the Whales played to an appreciative crowd, many of whom knew and sang along to songs on their forthcoming, self-released debut album ‘Weathervanes’. The band is an interesting juxtaposition of traditional folk (banjo, accordion) and new-fangled instruments (synth and keyboard) as well as the unusual (xylophone, watering can used as percussion). Note: I thought they were great and the current hype around them is insane, you’d be remiss not to at least have a listen.

Bear in Heaven was the wild card of the night for me, not knowing anything about the Brooklyn band. I thoroughly enjoyed the combination of voice, guitars, synth, and drums coming together to create some atmospheric masterpieces that at times could be called rock and at times could be called dance. You would not have guessed this looking at the three men on stage displaying various stages of beard and mustache. Fun stuff like ‘Wholehearted Mess’ surprised me with the band’s brand of experimental dance. (Is that even a genre?)

When 23.30 rolled around and it was time for the headliner Cymbals Eat Guitars, I was feeling a little apprehensive. I hadn’t been in such a testosterone-fueled, excitement-filled room since seeing the Hold Steady at the 9:30 last summer. The quartet’s sound is tight, sounding better than ever. They powered through several of the songs like ‘Under a Hazy Sea’ (featuring Joseph D’Agostino’s emotional vocals and jangly guitar) and the jaunty ‘Indiana’ from their Memphis Industries’s debut ‘Why There Are Mountains’ and played some new ones for us as well.

I’m pretty sure they could have sold out the next biggest venue in town, the Black Cat, but my feeling is that the rock of Cymbals Eat Guitars feels right in a sweaty, packed place like the RnR. The band heads to South by Southwest this week and I’m sure they will wow the Austin crowd just like they wowed us here in D.C.

After the cut: more photos!

Continue reading Live Review: Cymbals Eat Guitars with Freelance Whales and Bear in Heaven at Rock ‘n’ Roll Hotel, Washington DC – 06 March 2010


MP3 of the Day #156: Freelance Whales

By on Tuesday, 2nd March 2010 at 10:00 am

Looking back at 2009, I think Freelance Whales are the American band with the greatest potential I didn’t get to see last year. A quintet with folky sensibility (read: handy with a banjo, for example) and gorgeous harmonising vocals, it’s no wonder London-based folk pop band Fanfarlo chose them as their support on their first headlining tour of North America.

I now feel sick that I missed them as openers to Fanfarlo at Iota on 04 December 2009 in December, and then at a sold-out gig at the downstairs Black Cat Backstage when I was busy covering We Are Scientists upstairs on 21 January 2010. Fingers crossed I will get to see them live as they support Cymbals Eat Guitars in D.C. next weekend. The buzz around this band is so incredible, I’d suggest catching them live when you can, or at least picking up their debut album ‘Weathervanes’ when it’s released in mid-April. Below you can listen and download their song ‘Generator 2nd Floor’ and watch them perform the song acoustically and in the dark back in December 2008.

MP3: Freelance Whales – Generator 2nd Floor



Freelance Whales’s debut album ‘Weathervanes’ will be released on 13 April in America on Frenchkiss / Mom and Pop Records. You can preorder the album on their Web site. The first 500 people to preorder the album will also receive a signed, limited edition poster.


Live Review: Fanfarlo at Iota, Arlington, VA – 11 December 2009

By on Monday, 14th December 2009 at 2:00 pm

a-fanfarlosignWhat’s up with all the gigs I’ve been attending lately? They’re all selling out! Obviously, this is wonderful for the acts themselves, especially for those from the UK or Europe who have traveled to play venues here in America and wondered how they’d be received. But the average punter like me ends up feeling claustrophobic, and the whole experience is a little too intimate for my liking. (If you get my drift!) All this was repeated last night for Fanfarlo‘s set at tiny Iota, a venue/cafe combo in Arlington, Virginia, just across the river from Washington D.C.

The opening act was Brooklyn-based Freelance Whales, who I’m very sorry to say I missed because 1) the traffic into Arlington and trying to find parking were both ridiculous, 2) the door policy was confusing so I got into the sold-out venue late, and 3) I was interviewing Cathy Lucas and Amos Memon of Fanfarlo next to canned tomatoes and olives in the basement of Iota during their set (interview coming soon on TGTF). But the London-based folk/pop band’s performance was sweeter than sugar.

g-fanfarlo5The first song they played was ‘Drowning Men’, with just three of their six members – Simon Balthazar (lead vocals / guitar), Lucas (backing vocals / mandolin / violin / and a bunch others), and Memon (drums). I decided this was a nice, smooth introduction to the throng who was made up of people who had read about this gig in the Washington Post and had never heard a lick of Fanfarlo prior to this night. Next, with all of their members, was ‘I’m a Pilot’, the opening track on their debut album ‘Reservoir’ and my absolute favourite of the 11 tracks on it, came in sounding just as it does when you push play on the album, with the stomping, scraping, and piano chords. But the majesty of the song live can’t be compared to the recording. Simon Balthazar and Cathy Lucas‘s perfectly harmonising vocals have to be heard live to be believed, especially in the chorus of ‘but kid I’m a pilot / it’s all I believe in‘. Sigh.

What a nice early Christmas present we received: they played us two new songs, ‘Atlas’ and ‘Waiting in the Wings’, which both had the Fanfarlo magic we know and love. On the latter, Balthazar swapped his acoustic guitar for an electric, making the song a bit more rockier than we’re used to on Fanfarlo tracks. ‘Luna’ was another highlight of the set, with Balthazar ditching the guitar altogether for a single drum and later his clarinet on which he serenaded the club with. Simply brilliant.

c-fanfarlo1There isn’t much space to hide in Iota (it’s really that small), so after ‘Luna’ the band tried to disappear into a corner of the club and looked like they were discussing whether to return for an encore. To our happiness, they bounded back on stage to play one final number that which Balthazar prefaced with some jokey banter about there possibly being ghosts in the place. His winsome smile before his band launched into ‘Ghosts’ was quite appropriate for the night: everyone who had been packed into the small Iota venue space left with grins on their faces and the knowledge that they had been treated to something really special in Arlington that night. I have good news for you Brits: they are set to tour early next year with Mumford and Sons. Talk about a dream line-up.

After the jump: set list and photos.
Apologies in advance for the darkness of the photos; the venue asked that no flash be used, so I followed their rules. After the gig, Simon expressed his appreciation for not blinding him and his band and was happy to pose for this photo for us. Thanks Simon!


Continue reading Live Review: Fanfarlo at Iota, Arlington, VA – 11 December 2009


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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF was edited by Mary Chang, based in Washington, DC.

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