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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 21, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 21
Frightened Rabbit matures into a solid folk-rock act
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Frightened Rabbit matures into a solid folk-rock act

by Albert Rodriguez - SGN A&E Writer

Frightened Rabbit
May 16
Neumos


Going from good to great is harder than you think - just ask the many musical acts who've stumbled on their way up the career ladder. This can be attributed to lots of things, but it usually involves lack of talent and bad choices. Neither of these elements seems to have plagued Frightened Rabbit, a U.K.-based quintet that appears to be doing everything right at the moment. On their sophomore album The Winter of Mixed Drinks, the band sticks close to its humble Scottish folk roots with obvious showings of expansion, but where the group has really strengthened is on stage.

From the last time I saw Frightened Rabbit live - two years ago at Chop Suey - to last weekend's sold-out appearance at Neumos, they've molded themselves into an exciting, captivating stage performance. They're still a blast to watch, but they've padded their songs with more confidence and even more bite.

Frightened Rabbit opened with "Skip the Youth" from the new album, then backstroked to its 2008 debut, The Midnight Organ Fight, for the second entry on the set list, "The Modern Leper." Immediately, I noticed the band's elevated sound, partly due to the venue's cranked speaker system, though undoubtedly the five-piece is louder. From my viewpoint, it looked as if an extra guitarist was included in the lineup.

"Old Old Fashioned" was met with cheerful appreciation throughout the crowd on both club levels. Some mouthed the lyrics, while others clapped their hands or bobbed their heads. "The Twist," another older favorite, drew the same reaction.

Going into the show, "The Wrestle" was my pick for the best track off the latest CD, but after hearing "Swim Until You Can't See Land" twice - once at Neumos, and earlier in the day at a Sonic Boom Records in-store session - I've now changed my mind.

A pair of songs from The Midnight Organ Fight closed out the main set: "Head Rolls Off" and "Good Arms vs. Bad Arms." The former, perhaps the strongest of the album, was delivered perfectly by the band. I just loved the intensity of the melancholy/edgy blend of sound.

For an encore, lead singer Scott Hutchison marveled on an acoustic solo rendition of "Poke" - you could literally hear a sniffle as he whisperingly crooned the chorus. The group put a cap on the performance with stinging versions of "Living in Color" and "Keep Yourself Warm."

To say Frightened Rabbit is going places is an understatement. It's really a matter of how fast they're getting there.

Chicago newcomers Maps & Atlases played an impressive opening set of tunes, mainly from their forthcoming debut Perch Patchwork. At times they were a hippy take on Vampire Weekend, which is a good thing, and other times they were a beautiful mess of clunky rock. The well-bearded quartet returns to Seattle next month to the Vera Project.

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