Buzzy Hat Trick: Friendly Fires, White Lies and Soft Pack Tour Together This Spring

When I saw this triple-bill announced via Bowery Presents RSS feed, my initial thought was "hey, this is just like those 'Brats' tours NME puts on in the UK." And wouldn't you know it, the UK music mag is actually behind this. It's a good idea that has taken surprisingly long to come to these shores: put three up-and-comers together for one big roadshow. One of whom I genuinely love, another of which I genuinely like, and the third… well color me curious.

The Soft Pack back when they were the Muslims
We'll start backwards from how NME is presenting the lineup. Anyone who reads this blog with any regularity know I'm a huge fan of The Soft Pack ("formerly The Muslims," how many times will I have to write that?). I never got around to writing up their show at Union Pool on January 17, mainly because it turned into a giant, insane, drunken dance party (it was my birthday weekend) that took me three days to recover from. But it was easily the best show I'd seen them play (and I've seen them a lot) and I think they're ready for that next step. And it immediately me think the name-change is a non-issue. They played three new songs, all of which were really good. They're also reissuing their debut (my #6 of 2008) with thee extra songs, fleshing it out to proper album length. They're definitely the odd men out on this tour, as the other two are from the UK, slicker, more dance-y.

MP3: The Soft Pack – Parasites

Friendly Fires at Pianos, CMJ 2008
Co-headliners Friendly Fires are quite good too, and have taken cues from Soulwax, Hot Chip and LCD Soundsystem as to the proper way to perform dance music in a live setting. (Seen 'em a couple times.) In their case, it involves two drum kits, plenty of agogo, awesomely spazzy dancing, and a dustbuster. Though there was too much previously-released material for it to make any of my 2008 Best-of lists, their self-titled debut is really, really good, and it's hard to argue with tracks like "Paris," "On Board" and their fantastic new single "Skeleton Boy":

MP3: Friendly Fires – Skeleton Boy (Buy it)

WhiteliesAs for White Lies, they are one of the hottest new bands in the UK right now, and as you can probably guess what they sound like just looking at this picture of them. Gothy club music, which as someone who owns his share of Sisters of Mercy records, is not necessarily a bad thing. More specifically they lie somewhere between Editors and The Killers which is not a place I'm exactly comfortable with… at least not in public. (They are better than The Whip who might also fit that description.) "To Lose My Life" is one of those guilty pleasure songs for me, one that you hear the first time and roll your eyes, but you would probably crank in my car if I had one. I will hold judgement till I see them.

MP3: White Lies – Lose My Life (Pre-order from Insound, get a free DVD)

The NME tour hits most major North American cities, including two nights at Bowery Ballroom, tickets are on sale now. Tour dates…

March 24 Washington, DC, Black Cat
March 25 Philadelphia, PA, First Unitarian Church
March 26 NYC, Bowery Ballroom
March 27 NYC, Bowery Ballroom
March 28 Boston, MA, Paradise Rock Club
March 30 Montreal, QUE, Les Saints
March 31 Toronto, ONT, Lee's Palace
April 01 Ann Arbor, MI, Blind Pig
April 02 Indianapolis, IN, Radio Radio
April 03 Chicago, IL, Double Door
April 04 Minneapolis, MN, Triple Rock Social Club
April 07 Seattle, WA, Neumo's
April 08 Vancouver, BC, Richard's on Richards
April 09 Portland, OR, Doug Fir Lounge
April 11 San Francisco, CA, Slims

Some videos after the jump….

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Friendly Fires | Pianos | 10.23.2008

Friendlyfires
Of all the bands I saw at CMJ, Friendly Fires were the only ones to play thier guitar with a Dustbuster. As I've said before, these guys know how to make studio-created dance music interesting live, with loads of live percussion, unusual instrumentation and singer Ed Macfarlane's appealingly new romantic vocal style and spastic dance moves. The songs are pretty good too: the super-funky "On Board"; "Paris," with it's Us-against-the-World romanticism; and the dreamy "Strobe." They continue to refuse to play "Photobooth," maybe their best song, the hope of which will probably have me seeing them again.

MP3Friendly Fires – Photobooth (buy it)

And here's the Aeroplane remix of "Paris" featuring vocals by Au Revoir Simone…

MP3Friendly Fires – Paris (Aeroplane Remix) fdd

And visit Gorilla Vs. Bear for Friendly Fires' cover of Lykke Li's "I'm Good I'm Gone"

Friendly Fires | Mercury Lounge | 7.28.2008

Friendlyfires_merc

Friendly Fires, playing their second U.S. date (first being Saturday at Santos Party House) to a half-full Mercury Lounge crowd, know how to translate the percussion-heavy sound of their records to the stage. Bassist Jack Savidge also manned a second drum kit; Edd Gibson thrashed around with his guitar like a young Andy Gill; and singer Ed Macfarlane is the most awesomely spazzy dancer to come from the UK since The Rakes’ Alan Donahoe. And a hired gun drummer kept things tight and moving forward.

I just wish they had more quality songs. Apart from “Jump in the Pool,” “Paris” and “On Board,” the songs were funky but indestinctive and lacking in the kind of hooks that have you heading to the merch table afterwards. (Not that this band, who’ve yet to release anything in America had anything at all to sell.) It’s the opposite problem of Cut Copy, who seem to only be able to write singles but completely drop the ball in the live setting. (I realize I am the minority opinion on this but I am right.)

Maybe Friendly Fires do have the songs and they just didn’t play them Monday night. They sure didn’t trot out “Photobooth,” which is one of their best to date and that I was most looking forward to and seems to be one that could easily make the transition to stage.  Or maybe if I’d heard their debut, due out in September on XL, I would’ve been more taken by it all. The highs were high but the other songs had me checking my watch. In the end I left with a sense of promise not quite yet fulfilled.

One of the highs was “On Board” which I shot most of guerrilla-style:

Then again, I’ve been in a crappy mood lately and maybe I just was unable to fully enjoy things: The Music Slut’s J and M were there and way more into it than I was.

Friendly Fires Tonight at Mercury Lounge

FriendlyfiresOne of the best undernoticed singles of last year was “Paris” by UK dance-rock act Friendly Fires. It’s one of these young love, “us against the world” romantic epics but the arrangement and production is just perfect, big and sprawling with waves of big synths washing over the syncopated percussion. It’s fantastic.

MP3: Friendly Fires – Paris

The band released two EPs last year in addition to that single, one of which, “Photobooth,” is pretty good too:

MP3: Friendly Fires – Photobooth

Their debut album comes out in September in the UK. (No U.S. release date yet, but they’re on XL so it’ll happen at some point.) and they’re currently here in NYC playing some shows. They played Santos Party House on Saturday night and they’ll be at Mercury Lounge tonight.

Tickets are still available.

You never can tell whether bands like this are going to be any good live, though; how much they’ll rely on backing tracks, etc.  But it’s worth showing up to find out. Plus, Modey Lemon is on the bill, who were really good last night opening for !!!. See you there?