Fanfarlo + Passion Pit @ The Vibe Bar
(Above) Testing how well iphone video broadcasting works (answer: not that well…needs sound level control, and wi-fi).
Endorsements from established stars are a double edged sword, its an easy sell for press coverage, but it can put off younger fans. After all, they may be musical legends, but it doesn’t mean theyve got taste! Has Morrissey ever championed a band that’s been anything other than unremittingly awful. So its to Fanfarlo’s credit that they’ve survived David Bowie declaring them his new favourite band, and made “Reservoir” an album tailor-made for the end of year best of lists.
Its also one of an increasing number of releases to be available in a ludicrously luxurious special edition. “Reservoir” comes in (deep breath) a beautiful linen box with foil blocked mask imagery, a second CD, fold out art, song lyrics, AND… a board game! Its gorgeous but we can’t be far off the point where special edition releases have to be delivered by articulated truck (The Pet Shop Boys special edition cost 300 quid and formed an 8ft tick).
The Vibe Bar is playing host to 5 nights of Levi’s Ones To Watch branded gigs and as such is packed and as one twitterer charmingly put it “Sweatier than serena williams’ vagina“ (I initially read it as, the gig was “sweeter than…”, which is marginally less offensive). It’s a young fairly typical Brick Lane crowd, one man has a 12 cm kids plastic giraffe glued to the side of his hat. For a second I thought perhaps he doesn’t know, he’ll get home, see it in the mirror, and think “why did no one tell me!?“. Either way the audience had a good 5 years on the kids spilling out of the Macabees free gig at Rough Trade that I ambled past on the way (but congratulations to them for finishing their 11+).
On stage Fanfarlo are attempting to break the record for most instruments on an East London stage, but the mandolin, clarinet, guitars, melodica and various drums make a wonderful racket. I must of course make a compulsory mention of their similarity to Arcade Fire and Beirut. Its undeniable that if you like those bands you’d be foolish not to give Fanfarlo a listen, but thats not a bad thing and it’ll be the quality of the songs that keeps you listening.
Highlights from their album like “I’m a Pilot” cram more instrumentation and multiple crescendo’s into 5 minutes than others do into entire careers. Stomping piano and percussion drive the song up to its bell and string drenched finale. During “Drowning Men” singer Simon Balthazar and the keyboard player pummel a drum centre stage before proceeding to hit any surface they can find to crack out a rhythm (watch it on my sound distorted iphone clip at the top of the page).
Employing great wit my gigging friend and I remarked how the bespectacled keyboard player looked a bit like Jeremy Warmsley. We were slightly surprised when during the closing “The Walls Are Coming Down” Balthazar introduced the “magnificent Jeremy Warmsley“. Warmsley then took up a more prominent position to help lead the final singalong cacophony that is “The Walls Are Coming Down“.
Fanfarlo – Spotify mixtape (click link)
On a slight side note, long time readers of this blog may remember Rachel Kichenside both from her work with Stickboy and from her cheerleading in the blog comments on any Stickboy posts. Well, her band Run Toto Run have become something of a hype machine / youtube sensation courtesy of their cover version of Passion Pits “Sleepy Head“. The video has that lo-fi spontaneous charm of the best youtube hits.
The crowd pushed forward for headliners Passion Pit, and they were bellowing approval by the end of The Pits first tune. Theres no doubt that on record two or three of Passion Pits tracks are fantastic examples of pop rock electronica, both credible and crossover. Live I was slightly underwhelmed other than on their more recognisable tunes, although this may have had more to do with the soundman who buried the distinctive falsetto of lead singer and Rory McGrath lookalike Michael Angelakos deep in the mix.
Thats not to say there weren’t highlights. “The Reeling” with its huge 80’s keyboards and kiddie choir chorus rocked the room, and “SleepyHead” is quite simply a piece of songwriting brilliance (as evidenced by Run Toto Run’s brilliant cover version).
“I’ve got your number” was for my money the best on the night, combining the electronic beep and cheap keyboard charm of Hot Chip with The Postal Service. The people in front threw their heads back, eyes shut to scream out the line “Have you seen me cry, tears like diamonds?” While the chorus had them shouting along, the skittering beats and wonderful computer riff had them dancing.
I was slightly distracted by three utterly hammered pink shirted rugby lads in front of me who blocked views, spilt beer and stumbled about throughout the gig. My friend made his summation of the night, muttering as Passion Pit finished “I’m not sure what was more irritating, the idiots in front or the band“. Harsh, very harsh!!