Friday, July 10, 2009

Show Review: Handsome Furs @ The Music Hall of Williamsburg, Brooklyn, NY (7-8-09)

by Dave "Scout" Tarfoya

I love Brooklyn. Drink terrible sample soda off the sidewalk, browse through over-priced records, mope around hoping to run in to Ed Droste of Grizzly Bear. Perhaps it’s because I've seen some of my best shows there, but everything I do there just feels more artistic somehow. With that in mind, it's not hard to see why I thought the husband-and-wife team known as Handsome Furs put on one of the best shows I've ever seen Wednesday night at The Music Hall of Williamsburg. One thing’s for sure, it was definitely the sexiest.

I had some expectations about what the Furs live show would be like. I’d seen Dan Boeckner play before with Wolf Parade, and the Furs, on record, are moody and spacey; a little New Order, a little Gary Neuman, and a lot of intense, Eastern bloc sexual tension (which from the front row on Wednesday was palpable). But within eight seconds of the Furs hitting the stage, with their shotgun blast of spastic movements, blistering volume, and unparalleled energy, these expectations were blown clear away. Somehow Boeckner, on a guitar run through a plethora of pedals and a vox amplifier, and Perry, on a drum machine, and the two sharing a little keyboard between them, managed to sound like an airplane after a gunshot tore its hull open. The beauty of Furs' songs is that they're comprised of simple yet sublime chord changes, the kind that rock and roll has been made of for 50+ years. But Perry's processed beats, blips, and buzzes create an ambient blanket over which Boeckner’s guitar just soars, making it more. And live, this guitar became an all-out aural assault.

It also triggered the lovers onstage to dance. Perry bounced up and down wildly, sometimes on one foot, driven by the music produced by their collective hands. Between particularly harsh bursts from the six-string, the two would wildly throw themselves at each other. Knowing that they love each other, that they share everything as man and wife, made this not only a deafening show, but also the most erotic performance I've ever witnessed. It was like Boeckner was channeling Joe Strummer, Elvis Presley, and Mick Jagger all at the same time, howling madly and making his Telecaster beg for mercy, a towering, swaggering warrior in tight black jeans, laceless boots, and a black muscle shirt.

He ripped from one song to the next, confident because the feisty firebrand in the glow-in-the-dark bra next to him was not only his drummer, but the other half of his life. The two moved crazily about the stage every second of every minute of the show, turning tight songs like "Thy Will Be Done" and "Dead + Rural" into flashfloods, forces of nature that were impossible to escape. When they ended with the astoundingly powerful "Radio Kaliningrad," everyone in the Music Hall started jumping along to the beat. Perry and Boeckner put every ounce of their beings into their instruments. It was like sonic foreplay, and it was impossible to tear your eyes (or ears) from the stage.

Give a Listen: Radio Kaliningrad-Handsome Furs

The opening act(s) were many. A two piece from Staunton, VA, (The Cinnamon Band), played laid back country rock, coming somewhere between Phosphorescent and Pete Yorn. Then there was Dri, a four-piece who made sunbaked psych rock band mixed with mock dub. Dri shared little sonically with their predecessor or Handsome Furs, but they kept the crowd pleased none the less. If you'd asked me before if white people could play dub music from scratch and not only sound authentic but vital, I'd have said no. But low and behold, Dri showed me otherwise. Their rhythm section was formidable as well, capable of switching from Yardbirds-style blues to Wailers-style reggae in seconds. THEN, there was a stand-up comedian, no joke (heh). He was funny enough, but I don't quite get why venues feel the need to prolong the headliner with a comedian for eight minutes, especially when there were two opening bands. Sure, it’s more bang for the buck but cmon…

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