Anyone who knows me knows that I have an extensive love for this particular five member indie rock band. When I first heard their first LP Weathervanes in 2010 I was immediately hooked. Since then, the New York based band has traveled to my area twice, both at times which my parents had yet to deem me old enough to attend either show. Finally, during their third visit to Ohio this past Sunday I, along with my sister, were able to see the spectacle that is Freelance Whales. The show took place at The Basement in Columbus, Ohio, and let me simply say that there is a reason why it’s cold The Basement. Cramped in an underground bar with a stage no bigger than my living room and floor space that was barely any larger; a few hundred strangers became very close friends for the night all in order to enjoy some good music.
The show started with two opening acts, Il Abanico and Hundred Waters. Now, going in I had the usual pre-outlook of an opening act that I had not heard of; I had assumed that they were going to be awful. Both bands slapped my ridiculous assumption back in my face with their talent. Il Abanico was like a magical mix of post-punk and eighties pop that left you filled with endless energy. Hundred Waters, with their various tangles of cables across the stage, brought a sound that was at moments so serene that all you could do was absorb their creation of magical sounds and at other times it made you want to dance your feet off.
Eventually, after an hour out in the cold, and two hours of opening performances, Freelance Whales took the very small stage. Starting out with “Aeolus,” the opening track from their new LP Diluvia; the Whales swooped in with soft, gradually building synths, banjo, and choral oohs and ahhs. The show consisted of constant instrument switch offs, each member just as competent on every other instrument. Their voices and consistent harmonies were even more haunting and beautiful than any recording could ever do justice. When Doris Cellar, the only female member, came up and sang lead on the song “Spitting Image” the crowd freaked out, her voice sweet and compelling compared to Judah’s (the group’s lead singer) whimsical indie-esc tenor. There was a good mix of tunes from both albums; songs like “Locked Out,” “Follow Through,” “Land Features” as well as popular tunes like “Hannah,” “Generator 1st Floor,” and “Generator 2nd Floor” to name a few. Songs from Weathervanes being a somewhat of a group sing along amongst the audience, while the tunes from Diluvia seemed to be less known. Time flew, and soon enough they group played their “final” song. Of course, they came back out t play to more tunes, including the ever popular “Broken Horse” from Weathervanes. Kevin Reed on lead guitar played as genius as ever and Jacob Hyman on drums wowed the audience with his constant change of pace. Judah and Chuck switched off on banjo and rhythm guitar; whilst also switching around with Doris on bass. Chuck’s playing synth in one hand and glockenspiel in the other was to be commended. The best part, I believe though, was when Doris played the harmonium. Most people are unaware of the instrument, as they are very hard to find. A harmonium is somewhat like an accordion; however, it produces a fairly different sound. Accordions are brighter sounding, while harmoniums produce a darker, spookier sound. After the show I had the pleasure of speaking with Doris. She confirmed that harmoniums are extremely hard to come across, which is why the band has only ever had the one, which is currently held together with duct tape. Aside from meeting Doris Cellar, I also had the pleasure of meeting band members Chuck Criss and Judah Dadone for a few short minutes. The night was so crazy that I can barely remember the words that were passed.
Freelance Whales: Great music. Great people. The tour continues until the beginning of February, so if you have a chance I suggest checking them out; their music is even more brilliant live then recorded.
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