Review – Friendly Fires at Richard’s on Richards, Vancouver, April 18 2009
– review and photos by Kate Reid
I don’t read NME, so feel free to hate me when I say that most arena rock bands from across the pond sound exactly the same. I exempt Bloc Party from this list because “Banquet” reminds me of an ex-boyfriend, but if a plane carrying White Lies, Maximo Park, Franz Ferdinand, Glasvegas, and The Killers were to suddenly change trajectory and fly directly into the sun, I wouldn’t waste 140 characters tweeting about it, so imagine how it pains me to dedicate an entire paragraph to those doodieheads. And yeah, I know The Killers are from Vegas, but for them I’ll make an exception.
When Fear of Flying changed its name to White Lies, the West London band jettisoned a moderately tolerable party sound in exchange for a somber, lumbering dirge – imagine The Killers without the glam and amusing androgyny of that knob, Brandon Flowers – now imagine he’s dead.
Sorry, I’m feeling a little stabby after the White Lies wind machine left me with a crusty eye patch. Yarrr. Gusts of recycled air blew the drummer’s mop of hair into a rock star tousle, but irritated my contact lens to the point where my right eye sealed shut with a mucous-lined squinch.
The feeling was familiar though – the Bloc Party-loving ex-boyfriend liked to serve up the old pirate eye in bed. I only mention this bit of overshare because it fits in so well with lead singer Harry McVeigh’s extended guitar fellatio. Even my crusted-over eye was sexier than his yawning onstage masturbation. I didn’t mind forfeiting some of my vision when it meant blurring the sight of four pompous twats in matching v-necks. Seriously, matching v-necks. Christ.
It’s too bad the members of White Lies are such humourless stiffs. Maybe they had a little drollery in them back in the day – otherwise I can’t understand why their dismal funeral march would be on the same bill as two lighthearted bands like The Soft Pack and Friendly Fires.
I only caught three songs from the Soft Pack, but I liked what I heard. Matt Lamkin sung his lyrics in a talky twang reminiscent of Pavement and the band sounded like Black Lips with less punk flavour and more straight up, garage-rock crunch.
The Soft Pack used to be called The Muslims, but after encountering a deluge of racist remarks, they changed their name. A statement from the band read: “I guess there was some confusion as to whether we are ‘fucking gay, corporate sell outs.’ Don’t fret! We are still broke as ever and paying for the band out of our own pockets.” That’s good to hear? Apparently James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem liked the Soft Pack when he caught them in New York, so that’s definitely good to hear.
The last act for the night was Friendly Fires. I’d thought the nu rave band was French because of their “Paris”* song and because the Air France (!) remix of “Skeleton Boy” reminds me of Phoenix‘s “1901”. Phoenix is French but Friendly Fires is definitely British – I couldn’t understand a word out of Ed Macfarlane’s mouth. He probably mentioned something about dancing since dude was all about gyrating onstage and down in the pit with the sweaty masses.
It’s impossible to keep from giggling when you watch that skinny man move, pumping his arms and wobbling his hips in teetering half circles – my Portuguese grandpa dances the same way to accordion music. In the end, Macfarlane’s frantic bopping persevered and beat my apathy into the ground – I danced it up in the pit for the duration of the Friendly Fires set. If I wasn’t so broke I might’ve bought a shirt, since I sweated through the one I was wearing.
*For a better song about the City of Lights check out “Oh, Paris” by Dent May & His Magnificent Ukulele. Dent was my fake Internet boyfriend back when we were both 16 and hung out on a Weezer messageboard instead of going out and getting real relationships. Dent’s always been a down to earth dude – now he looks like Elton John and makes rad music on Animal Collective’s label, Paw Tracks. Go, Dent, go.
Video – Dent May, “Oh, Paris”: