Freelance Whales with Miniature Tigers
Wednesday, December 1, 2010
7th St. Entry, Minneapolis
Freelance Whales might be that one indie band that sneaks up on you; you're totally unprepared to like them as much as you find yourself doing. And armed with a myriad of instruments and stripped of any ego whatsoever, it sometimes seems like the Freelance Whales are just as unprepared by the mutual feelings.
[jump] Wednesday night's performance was intimate and casual--almost like an elementary school sleepover. The atmospheric dream pop of the Freelance Whales has a childlike quality to it, as precious as a homemade macaroni card, and sounded right at home in the small room at the 7th St. Entry. The band has made quite a name for itself with all the different instruments it grazes through: in a about an hour, we saw appearances from a glockenspiel, a banjo, a squeezebox, a synthesizer, a harmonium, and various other bells and whistles interwoven tastefully with the guitar strings, bass lines and drum beats. The five band members continually swap instruments between songs and change places on stage. Add to those elements the five-part harmonies that are built into many of the songs: lead singer Judah Dadone has a charmingly wavering tenor, and the breathy, airy vocals that his bandmates loop into choruses and sprinkle throughout a song lend beautifully to the atmospheric sound.
The delicate music seemed at some points to be handled rather clumsily--or maybe that was on purpose. The lyrics that come through crystal clear on the band's debut Weathervanes album were sometimes lost in the playing, transitions were a little hesitant, and there were some false starts on a few songs--nothing that the audience wasn't all too ready to forgive. Besides, when crowd-pleasing tracks like "Hannah" and "Great Estates" had their air time, the band offered up a grandiose composition of layers so sensitive they could have fuddled through the rest of their set and still the magic wouldn't be lost.
Thankfully, there was minimal fuddling. The band did take the opportunity to showcase some new material, including the ethereal "Footprints," which, with its careful melodies and sinuous string elements, fit right in amongst the older material. For a band that has been doing such extensive touring (this is their sixth round in the U.S., according to Dadone), new songs are quite a feat.
"We're eager to get home to make a new record for you guys," said Dadone between songs. "We've been on the road for quite a bit in the past year, and we can't tell you what it means to be able to do this, so thanks for supporting us."
The humility was achingly obvious throughout the set, as the band practically smiled with their hearts on their sleeves. Just as they sheepishly walked offstage, they sheepishly walked back on for a one-song encore. "Sorry about that, we do have one more for you," apologized Dadone, and the band ended with the stirring and somber "Broken Horse"--probably the most flawlessly executed tune of the evening.
Miniature Tigers opened for Freelance Whales, and, you know, they were all right. The vintage sweater-and-poncho-wearing band looked every inch like they were plucked right out of 1976 and dropped on stage in front of a bunch of millennial hipsters, but their upbeat pop was pretty well-received by the audience, overall. They seemed like they were constantly soundchecking throughout the set, which was a little annoying. And then there was their between-song banter, which sounded insincere at best. Lead singer Charlie Brand had this to say: "We've played Minnesota a lot... love you guys, but you're kind of low-energy... not this time though, this time it's different!"
They did, however, use a rain stick. There was, in fact, a rain stick solo, to the delight of many in the crowd. It may have been the highlight of their set.
Critic's Bias: No bias, I don't think. I've been digging on the Weathervanes album for months, and was excited and interested to see how it would sound live.
The Crowd: In love. With the band. And each other. Lots of love, all around.
Overheard in the Crowd: "RAIN STICK SOLO!!!!!!!" (Fans demanded it during the Miniature Tigers set.)
Random Notebook Dump: I kind of want a rain stick now.
For more photos: See our full slideshow by Erik Hess.
1) "Day Off"
3) "Generator (First Floor)"
9) "We Could Be Friends"
10) "Great Estates"
12) "Generator (Second Floor)"
13) "Broken Horse"