Super Furry Animals, Fiery Furnaces, & Holy F*ck
The Variety Playhouse
January 30, 2008
By Brian Danin
Casiotones, mixing boards, and random electronics spout wires of different sizes and shapes across the stage. A scene of what seems like hysteria accompanies the mass of wires moving in all directions. At this point, the band’s name, Holy F*ck, is a perfectly adequate description of what’s happening on the stage.
Now, I’ve been to noise shows before, and can appreciate the mind-numbing drone that resonates through my body, down to my feet and blocks my neurons from functioning properly. These types of shows are usually for a small audience in a properly dilapidated venue (run-down isn’t necessary of course, but it does help with the ambiance). However, before I go any further, Holy F*ck is not quite this type of band. For starters, they have a live bassist and drummer. Plus, the Variety Playhouse is neither small nor run-down.
These musical instruments, which work with vibrating strings and the percussive smack of a drumstick, fit in nicely with the malady disunity of their circuit bending. Holy F*ck’s noise brigade was very enjoyable — something that’s normally hard to say of the noise genre. And of course, when they broke out their melodica, I nearly wet my pants. The barrage of 1980’s equipment and Nintendo-core inspired beats and melodies really made for an excellent live show. Expect to hear more from this Toronto-based group.
After Holy F*ck came the Fiery Furnaces. The last time I saw them was just after Gallowbird’s Bark came out and they were touring with Ted Leo and the Pharmacists. That was all the way across the vast land mass we call America, in Vancouver, BC. I was just walking down the street when I heard some noise from inside a bar and checked it out. Low and behold, they were inspiring, full of spontaneity and improvisation. That was my introduction to both bands back in 2003.
For the Fiery Furnaces, the brother sister duo of Eleanor and Matt, they switched up between keys and guitar, both singing and jamming out on their home-grown New York riffs. Several years and two albums later, we hear a distinct similarity to their first album. However, when listening to the album, it becomes apparent that there are two separate styles battling in their music. Noise inspired and aggressive music, juxtaposed next to smoother melodies adorned with Eleanor’s soft lyrics. However, these two styles are quick to see-saw from one to the next, in mid song.
The live show held true to their recorded versions. The spontaneity felt lost. The band was locked into a rigid structure of disunity as opposed to years before, when their live shows carried an organic discord that flowed throughout the songs. As a result, the album was hard to listen to and the show was hard to follow.
Never-the-less Eleanor did come dressed in a spectacular minimalist fashion: suction tight jeans, lovely brown ankle boots and a prim white dress shirt. I also must really give props to the drummer, Bob D’Amico, for rockin’ it out solid.
When the curtains closed, there was a bit of a ruckus from backstage, and a while later the ultra violet lights turned on, leaving the venue ominously dark. Finally, the curtains drew open to reveal a stage full of glowing white waves. The amps peered out amongst the crowd with glowing yellow eyes coming through the waves stenciled onto the front netting of the amplifiers.
Super Furry Animals were led to the stage by Gruff Rhys in a large red Power Rangers helmet. The band’s psychedelic vibe was in full form with their high-class, custom made suits; not business suits, but suede, embroidered ones with designs and "SFA" logos by Keiichi Tanaami. They started with a slow trance, electro composition with airy vocals slipping out from the ominous red helmet in a repetitious drone. The audience was absorbed. The energy accelerated. Working their way through older classics like "The Man Don’t Give a F*ck," to their new album Hey Venus!, the band kept rockin’ the whole show.
After more than a decade of their British techno-derived work, SFA is still able to inspire many with their noise-infused tracks. Certainly, this was a show worth seeing, full of aural and visual punch. It’s been a while since I have listened to SFA’s recorded music, but what I saw at their live show has inspired me to track down and enjoy the rest of their discography.
For more photos from the show, click here!