Concert Review | Freelance Whales + Peter Wolf Crier at Off Broadway in St. Louis

Frankly, there’s nothing better for an avid concert goer than to catch two much-buzzed about (and for me, adored) bands for a mere ten bucks. That’s what last night brought to me: the Queens-based Freelance Whales with opener, Minnesota duo Peter Wolf Crier, at the always fabulous Off Broadway in Saint Louis.

I got the Freelance Whales debut album back in February, and I was instantly heavily invested in the band’s Postal Service-meets-Sufjan Stevens sound. However, before last night, it had been awhile since I’d given the album my full attention, from start to finish. As I purposefully listened to Weathervanes yesterday evening, I was astounded yet again with the quality of the debut effort. Literally, every song contains a clever lyric or an infectious hook or a poignant chorus – layered over intricate and interesting instrumentation. As far as “of the moment” indie rock bands go, Freelance Whales has carved its own niche in the marketplace; no one else sounds like this band right now.

My biggest curiosity going into Tuesday’s show was how the band’s sound would translate to a live concert. Would those arcade bleeps and blips come to the party? Who would handle that vast sea of percussion? Turns out, I needn’t worry. Freelance Whales flat out brought it, and dare I say, the songs sounded refreshingly imperfect in a live setting.

And those five refreshingly imperfect humans onstage brought a ferocious passion to the songs off Weathervanes, trading instrument duties every three minutes or so, switching between the xylophone, the banjo, the harmonium. I found myself fixated on, haunted almost, by the band’s powerful organic elements tangled with its oft-times synthesized beats. It was like yin and yang coming together in front of my very eyes.

Photo credit: Louis Kwok

Not surprisingly, the biggest hit off the album, “First Floor ^ Generator” provoked literal squeals from the audience from merely the introductory banjo notes. Frontman Judah Dadone, a clear jack of all trades, bounced among the stage’s collection of instruments with ease, providing heightened earnestness with each new hat worn. Yet, his lead vocals made the biggest impact: his syrupy-sweet vocals draped the opener “Hannah” with childlike nostalgia but grounded high-concept songs like “Location” and “Starring.” Another standout, Doris Cellar, the sole female of the group, was shiny and bold, comfortably caught up in harmonies and percussion. But, it’s when the five come together on songs like the ethereal “We Could Be Friends” that they create for what Freelance Whales is known: a symphony of eclecticism.

Photo credit: Louis Kwok

In previous interviews, Freelance Whales have articulated their penchant for playing in random, public places – a street corner, a subway station – all in an effort to honestly bring their art to the people, to attract a following, the old-fashion, no-frills, grassroots way. They played last night as if the house wasn’t packed, as if they were still trying to garner that much-needed attention to make a hobby an actual livelihood, as if the audience wasn’t already all-consumed with their music.

Very refreshing, indeed.

Setlist (courtesy of I Went to a Show): 
Generator^First Floor
We Could Be Friends
The Great Estates
Broken Horse

7/4 Shoreline (Broken Social Scene cover)
Generator^Second Floor

Weathervanes is out now on Frenchkiss/Mom & Pop.

To view all of Louis Kwok’s pictures from last night’s show, head here.

Last night’s opener, Peter Wolf Crier (Peter Pisano and Brian Moen) began its set with a full crowed and the back porch stomper, “Crutch & Cane.” Seemingly chill, Moen behind a drumkit, Pisano perched on a stool with his guitar, after the first number, both musicians had a hard time containing themselves, rising out of their seats, movements keeping time with their homey, yet distorted, country blues.

Photo credit: Louis Kwok

Pisano’s falsetto brings to mind labelmate, Justin Vernon (Bon Iver, Volcano Choir), but his onstage persona articulates a bit more aggression. Moen’s drumming is jaw-droppingly kick-ass. Together, their live show does more than justice to their album debut, Inter-Be, and the two are affable and humble, still not quite able to believe they get paid to play music to eager fans.

Peter Wolf Crier – Crutch & Cane

Inter-Be is out now on Jagjaguwar.

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