Friday, December 17, 2010

Miniature Tigers and Freelance Whales @ Webster Hall, NYC 12/15

Photo Credit: Kyle Dean Reinford
Note: I was lame and left my camera at home again so this is actually a frame from their show at Webster Hall last year. I know, I really need to bring my camera with me.

On a frigid New York night, days before the holiday break, Miniature Tigers and Freelance Whales, two fun and whimsical animal themed bands, took to the stage for their final shows of the year. The energy, excitement, and frustration of their 6 week long tour came to a head as both bands let loose all their emotions for the crowd in noticeably cathartic performances.

The decaying yet resilient venue of Webster Hall served as the perfect analog for the tour weary bands, while showing a bit of wear and tear they both put on stellar performances. To be quite honest, it was the best show that I had seen all year and that is making a pretty bold statement. Given the particularly frigid temperatures, the crowd was phenomenal too as only enthused fans showed up making a good show even better with their raw energy.

Miniature Tigers took to the stage first with a blend of familiar songs from their previous album as well as newer ones from their most recent album “Fortress.” Their quirky lyrics, awkward moments, and endearing sound was on full display on classics like Cannibal Queen, Dino Damage, and Last Night’s Fake Blood as well as newer jams like Gold Skull, Japanese Woman in My Closet, and Dark Tower. Of particular note was an amazing cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Fire,” in which Miniature Tigers entirely transformed this classic with their fun and whimsical sound into something entirely their own.

Their charmingly unpolished energy immediately garnered them the love of the audience. For instance, lead singer, Charlie Brand repeatedly asked the crowd, “How are you doing?” before becoming bashfully aware that he was becoming repetitive in a charismatic moment of self awareness. Needless to say, it was fun and genuine Indie rock at its best without any pretence. To put their show over the edge, the Miniature Tigers were so effusive and glowing with their thankfulness of touring with the Freelance Whales that they eventually invited them on to stage to help them play a song. The sight of 4 people standing around a drum set while at least three others jammed along on tambourines was amazing!

After such a fun and energetic set, it was a painfully long wait for the Freelance Whales to begin. It also didn’t help that they needed to set up so many different instruments for this talented multi-instrumental band. But regardless the wait was worthwhile as the Freelance Whales delivered a spectacular performance with their swirling multi-faceted sound filled with their mysterious dream like lyrics, complex soundscapes, and sincerely haunting harmonies. Of particular note was the always endearing “Ghosting,” the high octane of “Generator Second Floor,” and the whimsical “Kilojoules.”

To commemorate their long tour dominated by freezing temperatures, the Freelance Whales debuted a a beautiful and contemplative song written solely about the freezing temperatures. The band also played a second new song putting the crowd into overdrive with their intricate winding melodies, multi-layered harmonies, and the steady pounding of the bass drum. If these two new songs are any indication of things to come, and I assume they are, their new album will be every bit amazing as their debut LP.

In a moment of foreshadowing, Freelance Whales warned the audience that they would be on hiatus for some time so that they could take a break and write new material, hardly surprising given the fact that they have been touring nearly non-stop since the release of their first album in 2008. Although, I see that they've schedule a show at the Vivo Wine bar on January 9th already.

Not to be outdone by the Miniature Tigers, the Freelance Whales were equally glowing in their praise of their tour mates repeatedly thanking them and showering them with compliments. At the peak of the performance they, too, invited the Miniature Tigers on to an already crowded stage to perform with them. Seeing 4 people crowded around a drum added so much indescribable energy to the stage -- really a performance to remember.

Their mutual respect for each other as musicians was clear, and to be able to participate as audience members in this mutual band love fest was a privledge. It really seemed as if this tour were a match made in heaven as both bands fit together perfectly with their blend of whimsical charm, adoring lyrics, and high energy.

If this review seems far too in praise of them, I guess it’s because I find it hard to find fault with two bands that have such good genuinely kind energy about them, especially when they put on such charming performances.

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