The Eclectic Fiery Furnaces

Article & Image Published w/ Harp Magazine

Bug Jar
Rochester, NY USA
January 21, 2008
by April S. Engram

(Gallery Below)

Who needs neatly patterned, formulated and simple tunes? Most definitely not the rebellious brains behind the Fiery Furnaces, brother and sister duo Matthew and Eleanor Friedberger; the creative twosome unleashed their mutinous sounds on the eager, salivating crowd who loved every moment of the Furnaces’ performance.

The small bar/club was filled to its capacity as concertgoers in the rear were forced to stand on benches to see the Fiery Furnaces perform their artful music; it was an art form in and of itself just to maneuver about. A large, black cloth that held random lyrics from their songs as a backdrop—eccentric words that fill their songs such as “Zapped by the zombie in the two door dodge.” Already at the front, I was pushed to the brim of the stage as more bodies packed in when the Friedbergers made their way to the stage. Joined by bassist Jason Loewenstein and drummer Robert D’Amico, the moment The Fiery Furnaces leapt into new material from their 2007 release Widow City I spied happy faces smiling with delight, a strong fanbase gathered tonight and The Fiery Furnaces did not disappoint them.

The Furnaces played a melting pot of songs and fused tracks together; they solidly played around five songs before taking a breather to chat up the audience. Matthew greeted the crowd and asked us to grab a piece of paper to write down any song requests and pass them up to the stage. Eleanor chatted a bit as well before announcing their next song, “Philadelphia Grand Jury,” upon hearing the song title there was a roar of applause and cheers as a mystery man from the middle of the crowd laughed shouted, “Yeah, man I love this band!” The audience laughed in response as the Matthew leapt into the quirky, upbeat keyboards followed by a change in tempo which met the deep, melodic growl of Loewenstein’s bass. As the night went on, more pieces of paper floated forward and Eleanor collected the ballots.

Quick on his bass, Lowenstein’s fingers effortlessly flew about his instrument without hesitation. Considering the complexity of the Furnaces’ tunes, it shouldn’t be a surprise that Loewenstein doesn’t merely provide the usual one-two time widely seen from bass players. And the same can easily be said for D’Amico as he kept the ever changing tempo of each song and banged away at his set with a “fiery” intensity. (OK, bad pun, but D’Amico was amazing.) His skills, and Loewenstein’s, were not lost to anyone in the room as Matthew made special mention to the talented drummer and bass player.

Performing an array of songs from several releases, some of the tracks played this night included “A Candymaker’s Knife in my Handbag,” “Navy Nurse,” “Duplexes of the Dead,” “Automatic Husband,” “Widow City,” and my personal favorite, “My Egyptian Grammar.” A peculiar song whose lyrics I still do not quite comprehend, with passages such as, “I consulted my Egyptian Grammar. On p. 333 was the hieroglyph for motorcycle helmet… Maybe a nether-world entity would see it and pass it on to the responsible. That kind of thing must happen sometimes.” What can I say; I love its tongue-in-cheek quality.

If you dig the Furnaces, make sure to catch them before their tour is over. They put on a stirring live show.
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