It feels right that after two days (two days!) of sunshine in a row, Friendly Fires would provide the euphoric, tropical, and sweaty soundtrack to close the first real weekend of summer of the year.
Over the last 48 hours, virtually everyone in Seattle has appeared more relaxed, satisfied and sunburnt than usual, as if the whole city has just been on vacation together, and last night the large and finally de-NorthFacefleece’d crowd at Neumos was no different.
Even before the concert began, it was obvious that Friendly Fires wear their dance-music hearts on their disco sleeves: Kerri Chandler house workouts and bassy Hyperdub beats played over the PA rather than your usual pre-show rawk or hip-pop.
The lights dimmed and gentle orchestral washes mingled with the blue glow of the stage. Just as you think you’re only a rainmaker away from hearing whale song, the band came on stage and launched into “Lovesick,” a disco stomper from Friendly Fires’ self-titled debut.
“Back again!” was all that lead singer Ed Macfarlane said to the audience by way of introduction.
With his disheveled, curly locks, black skinny jeans, and Hawaiian shirt, “Slinky Hips” Ed meant business from the minute he started dancing in his own unique way–part Vogue, part 3 AM raver, part human snake charmer.
He was flanked by his bandmates Jack Savidge on guitar and Edd Gibson on drums both in H&M business casual. A bassist who also drums backed them up from the rear of the stage along with two session musicians–and they look like picture-perfect session musicians–on tenor sax and trumpet, both wearing black and looking twice the age of the early 20-something trio.
Having no time for pleasantries, the Friendlies bustled through their acid house-tinged indie with the thumping bass of “On Board,” “Skeleton Boy,” and the first single from their new album Pala, “Live those Days Tonight.”
To the delight of the crowd, Macfarlane repeatedly jumped in the audience and walked around with the mic singing and dancing with punters; he was careful not to look anyone in the eye and make any connection, however. Instead he was lost in the music and his entrancing performance.
The band played the highlife-flecked “Pull Me Back to Earth” with its Vampire Weekend guitar riffage before ending the set with early hit “Paris,” which had the crowd at its most wild and jubilant.
Friendly Fires returned for an encore and played “Hawaiian Air” where Savidge used a maraca as a guitar slide (in the same way a Delta bluesman would use a beer bottle) to create crazy ravey bleeps, while Macfarlane fiddled with vintage effects boxes, oscillators, and arps, hunched over his analog gear and singing falsetto at the same time.
The show ended with the carnival cacophony of “Kiss of Life” with the band going for broke on every cowbell, agogo, and drum they could lay their hands on.
In support were Wise Blood, a three-piece from Houston, Texas. Fronted by Chris Laufman, the band specialized in waves of feedback, dusty soul vocal loops, and heavy, heavy live drums. Like Macfarlane, Laufman also went for a wander through the audience while singing his band’s brand of synth-and-sample-heavy blues rock electronica. When he wasn’t on stage biting the microphone and pulling his stretched, dirty white t-shirt over his head like a last-minute Casper the Friendly Ghost costume, he was out on the venue floor, walking though the bemused crowd and occasionally dropping to his knees to sing to buzzed and embarrassed hipstresses a la the “You’ve Lost that Loving Feeling” scene from Top Gun with vocals that were less Tom Cruise and more Bobcat Goldthwait.
Friendly Fires Setlist:
Show Me Lights
Live those Days Tonight
Jump in the Pool
Pull Me Back to Earth
Kiss of Life