Returning to the Mohawk on Red River last night were Frightened Rabbit, the Scottish indie rock band who seem to steadily be gaining buzz and steam in the rock world. The band had previously played the Mohawk less than a month before on June 5 as an opening act for the French Kicks, and the headliners were subsequently blown off the stage by their more energetic opening act. So strong was Frightened Rabbit’s performance at this first gig, I made a mental note to check them out again a few weeks later when they came back through Austin.
The show began with a local band named Peel, whom I was unfamiliar with before last night. The band has a somewhat familiar lineup of lead singer/guitarist, bassist, drummer, and cute female keyboardist/vocalist. The band plays fairly pleasant, keyboard/Moog-driven twee indie pop with angular guitar work somewhat reminiscent of Pavement. Some songs, such as closer “Famous Noises,” seem to devolve into messy jams rather than the expected verse/chorus/verse song structure, a habit that seemed to draw the audience’s attention away from the strong melodies present in the tunes. Overall, Peel appears to be a promising local band, who with maybe a little more time to develop their songwriting skills could become a band to watch out for on the local scene.
Up next was Oxford Collapse, a three piece hailing from Brooklyn, NY. Unfortunately, the band had several technical problems to deal with throughout the show, one of which resulted in a blown guitar amp during the performance of “Please Visit Your National Parks” that caused the song to be cut short. Despite these difficulties, the band still managed to pull of a memorable and energetic performance. Their sound could best be described as a combination of frenetic, Replacements-like punk elements combined with a strong ear for hook-laden choruses. Oxford Collapse is definitely a band I will watch out for in the future, and with the band’s addition to indie uber-label SubPop‘s roster, I’m sure I will hear more from this band.
Finally, we come to headliner Frightened Rabbit. Since their last set played at the Mohawk was an opening gig, we were only treated to a truncated but highly energetic bunch of songs, almost all from new album Midnight Organ Fight. This time around, with the expanded timeslot of a headlining act, Frightened Rabbit was able to take much more time to play almost all of the tunes from MOF, as well as several songs from their first record, Sing the Greys. For the first three or four songs, there were some major sound issues that prevented the band from really taking off and connecting with the audience, but the sound guy finally got it right eventually. By the time Frightened Rabbit launched into their single “Head Rolls Off,” the audience was fully engaged and would remain so for the rest of the evening. The band has a curious habit of starting off their shows by playing the first several tunes off MOF in album order, opening with “The Modern Leper” and continuing at least through “Old Old Fashioned.” This same strategy was employed at their June 2 show. Whatever the reason, it definitely breeds a familiarity with the material if you own the album. The band eventually broke off and played some songs from their first album, such as “The Greys” and “Go Go Girls,” all of which fit in seamlessly with their current material. Closing out a two hour set, the band came back for an encore, first just lead singer/guitarist Scott Hutchison with a solo performance of “Poke,” after which the full band took the stage for a high energy finale of “Keep Yourself Warm.” The band puts on a hell of a show, and the songs benefit nicely from the raw sound and feel of a live performance as opposed to the polished sheen heard on Midnight Organ Fight. If this band is coming through your area anytime soon, I would definitely recommend catching them now, because I foresee them playing much larger venues in the near future.
I found a clip with pretty low quality sound of the band performing “Good Arms vs. Bad Arms” at the Mohawk back on June 2. I apologize for the quality. I didn’t film it. Enjoy.
Update (GW): Sonic Itch has a brief interview with Scott Hutchison of Frightened Rabbit, along with an MP3 of “Backwards Talk” and the video for the awesome “Heads Roll Off.”