I WAS THERE . . . Handsome Furs @ Bowery Ballroom 7/7/09

The Handsome Furs are everything I love about music; innovative, humorous, passionate and very very danceable. Even before the lights went down the duo’s unpretentious human quality was shining through. Coming out to set up their own equipment and plug in their own instruments; drum machine and keyboard bolted to a sturdy card table and a single electric guitar with a trio of pedals. The two musicians themselves held that same genuine feeling as they waved to the crowd, answered shouts from the front row and shook hands with a few folks as they got ready and then exited.

As the lights went out and the band came back on stage, the connection with the crowd remained, as both Dan and Alexi thanked everyone for coming and introduced the first song (about Financial Meltdown). As Alexi started up the drum machine, a solid wall of sound erupted, immediately setting the crowd to dancing.

Throughout the set I was just blown away by the energy and vibrancy of this act; Alexi was body mechanics in motion; a perfect human counterpart to the drum machine. She foot pounded and ballet positioned her way through each song, a mesh of controlled movements and tribal abandon. Like some pixie rabble rouser, her body bobbing and thrashing, she was nervous energy personified while coaxing the raw sound of the Eastern Bloc forth, only to collapse fully to the floor after each song, chest heaving with emotion and the need for air.

Dan was vibrant and looming, akin to an experienced pugilist organic and lunging while playing. Voice raw but powerful, he held his own amongst the pounding rhythms of the drum machine and keyboard, his guitar riffs sounding like a fist raised in victory and struggle. Standing upon his tiptoes more often than not as he blasted off powerful lick after lick, it was easy to see how the symbiosis of his own brazen energy meshed with hers.

Indeed, the vibe they created together was astoundingly comfortable, supportive, loving and wholly unapologetic. It’s rare to see such unpretentious emotion on stage and from start to finish the beauty of these people shined through. Continually thanking the crowd, expressing gratitude for listening and being interested, and even the small act of introducing the songs and what they were about all combined to create a genuine authenticity that is really rather precious. They lit up the state and filled the space to the brim.

The show was alternatively pounding dance rhythms and slow head bobbing electro-clash, while the light show transported me to an Eastern European discotheque. Bright greens, pinks, and yellows splashing across the stage as Dan hit chords, a disco-ball only added to the effect as spotlights roved over the crowd. What a crowd it was too, huge and packed into the rather roomy Bowery on a Tuesday night for an amazing headliner. The floor bucked and heaved with moving bodies as people shouted out their love and admiration from the balconies.

So obviously I’d suggest you check them out if you get a chance as their music evokes a distinctly Northern Hemispheric sound that strikes a chord from British Columbia all the way East to Moscow.

Kenneth Joachim

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