Frightened Rabbit With Augustines
Culture Room, Fort Lauderdale
October 12, 2013
Better than: The vast majority of indie rock.
Indie rock is such a vague musical umbrella. But perhaps that is because "indie rock" has grown so very vague? It feels as if everyone wants to be Death Cab for Cutie, living at the intersection of heartfelt and clever and shining brightly with timeless melodies.
The reality is that few have come close to the albums of gleaming gems Gibbard, Walla, and co. have penned over the years, and while the genre has seen countless numbers of hiply adorned young men and women come and go (the early 2000s were a particularly fruitful patch), few have had the staying power to follow fans from the dorms to first apartments.
Scotland's Frightened Rabbit, however, is a breath of fresh air in a genre gone stale -- a band with the sort of universal appeal that escapes most of today's indie rock. Don't believe us (or the countless music blogs singing the praises of the Rabbit)? Ask the jubilant chorus of voices that followed frontman Scott Hutchison through every lyric at Fort Lauderdale's Culture Room last Friday night.
Augustines opened the show. Billy McCarthy, performed donning Uncle Buck's hat and did everything in his power to ape a young Springsteen with his performance. The set was energetic, but overall felt like an attempt to create a moment that just was not there. Regardless of what tribulations forged Augustines' songs (McCarthy's backstory reveals a man that has seen no shortage of sadness nor struggle), the performance felt overdone. Every song was an overly emotional romp with McCarthy appearing on the verge of tears while his guitar clanged away loudly. There was a mysterious chorus of backing vocals that sounded as if an entire congregation of people had joined the band on stage during some songs. And while we can respect an attempt to keep songs as true to the album as possible in the live setting, the vocal tricks betrayed the intimacy of the small club and further removed us from any connection with the band's performance.
Frightened Rabbit appeared with a large pair of its stylized crosses guarding the stage. A riotous crowd greeted the Scotts, now touring with six members to round out its already lush sound. A majestic amber light flooded the room from the white cathedral of indie rock, and the audience swooned with along with opener, "Holy." The band seemed in great spirits, with frontman Hutchison providing anecdotes between songs in his charming accent, passionately belting lyrics at the top of his lungs. "The Modern Leper" had a few crowd members raising their arms to the sky through the songs acoustic chop, singing along gleefully to the song.
The set pulled from the entire Frightened Rabbit discography and included unexpected cuts like "Old Old Fashioned" from the group's sophomore LP and "Music Now" from Sing the Greys. The wall of sound created by Frightened Rabbits' six men delivered the songs to a new level of immediacy. Special mention goes out to Grant Hutchison, whose deft drum work made the night for us. The experience was an intimate time spent with a band that has seen its star rise considerably in recent years and may well never be seen in a venue the size of the Culture Room again.
Personal Bias: Casual Fridays, bro.
Random Detail: Billy McCarthy broke his belt on stage. Oops.