Words and photos by Farrah Skeiky
At the beginning of the month, I sustained a concussion. I had fainted as I walked into the bathroom at a friend’s house and hit my head on the counter. It was Super Bowl Sunday, and I had listened to an NPR story about NFL concussions and brain injuries earlier. I remember wondering who was yelling (me), where the blood was coming from (my nose), and why I had fallen asleep on the floor (I hadn’t). When I finally came to, I recalled the part of the story that detailed the sensation of waking from a concussion: you don’t remember falling or sustaining the injury, but instead you feel as if you’re waking from a dream. Succinctly, that was the sensation I left this concert with: it was dreamy and haunting, but overall a complete blur.
Frankie Rose was responsible for the haunting tone that lingered through the entire night, well into my return home. Their hollow, eerie sound was somehow simultaneously warm, and notes with plenty room to ring out hung in the air like welcome ghosts. There was room to breathe, room to think– but it was clouded by the persistent notes of past seconds. In some ways this can be seen as an art that Frankie Rose herself has perfected from past bands– she was an original member of Crystal Stilts and Dum Dum Girls, and both are bands in which heavy reverb and hanging melodies are encouraged. And while true to the sound cultivated in 2012’s Interstellar and more recently Herein Wild, this recurring pattern filled 930 with ghosts of each song played until they all ran together. What we remember is the generally hazy, witchy tone of the set, and not so much the individual songs.
Lucky for Frankie, 930 was packed with frantic White Lies fans that had the opportunity to fall in love with the beautiful dreamworld she had created. One of the most eager front rows I’ve seen in the city in quite some time, they were familiar with every detail, tempo change and particular inflection in songs new and old. With an intimidating spread of pedals at their feet, guitarist Harry McVeigh and Charles Cave modestly produced a sound that deserved as much energy as their fans were projecting. Between all the pedals and synth boards, drummer Jack Lawrence-Brown managed to keep everyone in time through the chaos of the evening. While their sound is much cleaner and way more polished than Frankie’s, White Lies had laid out a scene that was too chaotic for the true nature of their songs. Post-punk inspired groups are meant to be complex and precise, but it’s supposed to yield an end product of organized chaos.
Do bands focus on creating a soundscape that’s memorable at their shows, or do they simply set out to play their work to the best of their ability and trust the fans to recognize the effort? Do they anticipate creating an overall pleasant experience that sounds nice enough to push any missteps out of memory? I don’t believe that any band is out to deceive, especially not these two, but I wonder if these thoughts cross their minds when they’re deep into tour, most likely exhausted and falling into a routine. There are many cliches I could add here about work and love and mixing the two, but I’ll spare you the eye roll. It’s just something that needs to be asked when both bands created something that sounded lovely and will be remembered as lovely, unique even, but no particularly lovely or special moments stick out in my mind.
Or maybe it’s just the concussion. I’ll get back to you after the next CAT scan.