Fanfarlo at Chop Suey, Seattle | 14 September 2009
The stage was set like a Wes Anderson movie. Fanfarlo had criss-crossed the ceiling with ropes holding triangular flags, strings of lights enclosed stage like a picture frame and bagged lights were set around on amps and in between the band. I kind of had a good feeling about Fanfarlo when I saw that they had brought with them a mandolin, violin, trumpet, melodica, clarinet, glockenspiel and a saw. With that diversity of instruments, you know at the very least it will be interesting. The show started with three of the band on stage and an acoustic rendition of Drowning Men. After that introduction, the remaining three members joined the others on stage. The band were not quite dressed in costume, but they all had the look of just having finished play practice. With all the band on the still dimly lit stage, the drum march of I’m a Pilot started, and when the piano came in, the usually dark and dour Chop Suey stage came to life with the bright strings of lights glowing to match the sound of the band. It was eye popping, you could hear gasps from the audience and feel smiles come across everyone’s face as Fanfarlo and their little Wes Anderson movie set came to life.
Fanfarlo get compared to Arcade Fire quite a lot, but where Arcade Fire are all about pomp and bombast, Fanfarlo soften the corners coming across as a warmer friendlier band. They can sound big, but they also know how to do quiet. They all seem to be able to play multiple instruments, and apparently get tired of playing the same thing all the time based on all the switching off they did, and that restlessness spread to audience during the encore, when the band brought out hollow plastic whistling tubes and handed them out to various audience members for the song Ghost. It was just about perfect (except for ducking a few times) with the whistling forming and eerie bed of sound over which the band played. Like the stage set up, it was just another example of the band making a big impact with tiny props.
It was a Monday night, but Chop Suey was pretty full for a UK band touring the US with no album out yet. The majority of the people there must have been fans, because after the first encore the audience demanded another song. The house music and lights were coming on but everyone persisted and the band obliged. I rarely see a genuine encore, but this indeed was one, and the band were a little taken aback. They weren’t sure that they even knew another song that they could play, but they pulled out the A-side to their second single You Are One Of The Few Outsiders Who Really Understands Us. It may be the poppiest song they have, and just like the rush of the opening I’m a Pilot this put a smile on everyone’s face. In a lot of ways a gig is like a salesman making a sale, it’s all about the presentation, and Fanfarlo have got it down, visually and sonically.
Sound on the Sound was there too, and they got a review and photos.
Here are the remaining dates of their all too short US tour:
Popscene, San Francisco – September 17
Kungfu Necktie, Philadelphia – September 20
Bowery Ballroom, New York – September 21
Bell House, Brooklyn – September 22