Over The Weekend: Freelance Whales at The Loft

Freelance Whales, Miniature Tigers, Generationals
The Loft
November 12, 2010

Better than:
helping my wife put up the early Christmas decorations in our house (for real).

Thumbnail image for Freelance-Whales.jpeg
Freelance Whales
It's sometimes easy to forget how powerful of an impact that buzz can have on a young band's existence. And, yes, buzz is a bit of an annoying term and that's practically impossible to actually define.

But it exists nonetheless.

For those needing evidence: New York's Freelance Whales provided sterling proof to the positive at a comfortably crowded show at The Loft on Friday night. With their much-ballyhooed SXSW shows and the release of their debut album, Weathervanes, many months behind them, the quintet, led by Judah Dadone, stepped onto a Dallas stage for only the second time, and witnessed a pretty packed room praise them as conquering heroes.

Evident, from the very first vocal breath of their hour-long set, was the precociousness of Dadone's vocals. Even as cute as his voice is on record, the preciousness levels are amped up considerably in a live setting, and threaten to detract from the presentation. Thankfully, the overall heft and majesty of each song was also raised, considerably.

Thanks to their penchant for using myriad instruments -- both typical and not so typical -- in an assortment of ways, many have compared Freelance Whales to other chamber-pop outfits like Arcade Fire and also to synth-pop practitioners such as Postal Service. While on record, the Arcade Fire comparisons represent a bit of a reach, such isn't the case with the album's dramatic, surprisingly sweeping, live counterpart. Foggy synth and beefy, aggressive percussion provided a more than sturdy platform for sunny tunes like "Hannah" and "Location" to soar with authority. Augmenting the dynamic nature of the tunes, also, were banjo, mandolin and xylophone, among other musical accoutrement. (Speaking of other chamber-pop groups, Dadone sent a shout-out to Telegraph Canyon, with whom his band played its only other area concert, a few months ago.)

When the bass playing Doris Cellar would join in on harmonies, the songs became more dynamic and begged the questions as to why she isn't doing that more? Really, though, that should be rephrased, as she was doing plenty, in fact. At one point, during "The Great Estates," she was playing her bass guitar with one hand, while banging on the xylophone with the other, and doing both well.

Added to warmly received numbers like "Generator^Second Floor" and "Ghosting," which is about a feminine make-believe friend that Dadone used to "fancy" and featured the lead guitar player carefully drag a bow across the strings of his axe in order to obtain an effectively eerie moan, were a few new tunes that the band scattered throughout the set.

The thing is: Tunes like "Footprints" and "Enzymes" were indeed new, if not terribly new sounding. Such isn't a bad thing, however, as the band has clearly found an effectively engaging and identifiable sonic identity in the whimsical, Korg-intensive dreamscapes that, in fact, house the images that Dadone reportedly records manually from his own dreams into a journal that served as much of the lyrical content for Weathervanes.

Closing out their triumphant set with an abrupt, but gorgeous, one-song encore of "Broken Horse," the voices of the fans singing along were as audible as that of the band on stage was.

Ah, buzz.

Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias:
Not much of one. I have enjoyed Weathervanes since its release, but was apprehensive about their live product -- for no good reason, apparently.

By the Way: Generationals and Miniature Tigers performed just before Freelance Whales. A lot of the crowd seemed to really dig Miniature Tigers, especially the few attendees who were lucky enough to join them on stage. But it was hard to tell what it was that made those kids want to hop up on stage in the first place.

Random Note: There were many a young 'un in the crowd -- some even accompanied by a parent. Seeing that type of family togetherness was kind of encouraging, what in this day and age of increased teen-alienation, and all.

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