Tuesday, October 27, 2009

BIBJ Playlist of the 2000s entry #16: This Modern Leper by Frightened Rabbit


Image via Flickr

January 24, 2009 was a Saturday night. As you might expect, it was a bitterly cold evening. Frightened Rabbit were playing two shows at the Empty Bottle, at 7pm and 10pm respectively. I had tickets for the early show and it appeared I would be attending solo, as my designated show-going sidekick had landed a new job the day before, and had to start her training that night. I posted my now extra will-call ticket on craigslist, quickly found a buyer, met her at the door, and prepared for early-show rocking to commence.

It's a particularly inspiring experience to watch a band play a small bar and think to yourself, "These guys are going to blow up HUGE." A concept album revolving around a break-up is nothing new, and actually it's pretty cliché at this point in pop music. Yet every sentiment on The Midnight Organ Fight is disarmingly earnest, and the shocking honesty in depictions of a dysfunctional relationship causes even the most cynical critic to appreciate the fact that these songs are stripped of any filter or calculation. There's a reason this band has been referred to as "Coldplay for people with self respect."

Halfway through the set, my new friend leaned over to me.
"We should stay for the late show."
"It's been sold out for months. I don't think we'll be able to hide until it starts."
"Let's think of a way to make it happen."

The band ripped through nearly every track on the album.  Scott Hutchinson sang "Poke" without any amplification, strumming away on top of a monitor and adding a new layer of intimacy to the most wistful song to wonder aloud "Should we kick its cunt in and watch as it dies from bleeding?"  Scottish people can just say anything, can't they?

The show ended. People slowly filed out, lingering to finish drinks or pull posters off the wall as impromptu souvenirs. Due to the two-show setup, it was barely 9pm. Clearly too early to call it a night, but winters nights in Chicago dictate that next plans be set clearly before heading out into the concrete tundra. With that in mind, we took matters into our own hands and confronted the doorman. There was no song and dance.  She got straight to the point.
"What do we need to do to stay for the next show?"
He looked us over.
“Go stand outside for 20 minutes. When we open the doors back up, give me ten bucks.”
Best bargain ever? Best bargain ever.  We stood outside, our faces burning with each masochistic gust of bitter wind.  Sure enough when the doors opened, we paid our ten bucks, and prepared to re-live our experience from a couple hours before.

We walked back inside and briefly chatted with the singer at the bar. (She complimented his diverse wardrobe of plaid.) The second show was as outstanding as the first, though it seemed the crowd was smaller, so who knows what happened to those tickets that sold out months in advance. It’s slightly surreal to watch two nearly identical performances back-to-back, especially when the later show is viewed through the filter of additional beers. The encore included a Neutral Milk Hotel cover that did not appear in the earlier set, and again we watched the crowd file out afterward.  The wind had died down and Western Avenue felt warmer.

The Midnight Organ Fight is an album you should own.

No comments: