Yet another triple crown. Yay!
I left Rochester on Friday afternoon around 2:30, and made it to Great Barrington by seven-ish. Great Barrington is this quaint little town nestled in the mountains of western Massachusetts. I was early, as always, hung around Zard's motel waiting for them to arrive, but by eight or so I decided to head to the Simon's Rock campus and await them there.
Simon's Rock College campus is absolutely beautiful. It's a very small school (about 350 students), in the middle of a forest. Some geese made an appearance at the "security shack" (at the front entrance to the campus, on a dirt road no less), and the very friendly security staff let me know that there were also peacocks and llamas (yes, llamas!) nearby. I waited by the security shack, in the light rain, till about ten, when Zard and Chris T finally arrived. Apparently, they had a bunch of traffic problems, making their trip last a lot longer than expected. I also met a friend of Zard's, Jackson, at the security shack during my wait.
We headed up to the hall where the concert was, hearing the sounds of The Racketeers (the opening act, a rockabilly band). They were OK, for that style of music, which really isn't my style unfortunately. They started playing around 9:30 and finished around 10:30. Between the opening act and Fruvous, some of the students performed some bellydancing. I was very impressed; the choreography was actually pretty good. During this intermediate act, Jason, Rob, Cee, Caiti, Moz, Adam, and others made their presence known. :-)
Fruvous came on stage around 11:30. Almost instantly, all these inflated toys were being thrown around during the set. It got a little annoying, but eventually things settled down to the point where everyone was just dancing and having a great time. The age range of students at Simon's Rock is very wide (between 15 and 21), so the audience's reaction to the band varied just as widely. During the beginning of the set, things seemed a little tense, as if the crowd wasn't really into it. By the end, however, the crowd was VERY into it, and screamed insanely for the encores. All in all, an energetic crowd and a great set.
After the show (around 1:15), we hung around for a short while, talking to Dave, Jian, and Murray. The rain that started the day continued through the night. It was a very messy day, actually, weather-wise. By a little past two, Moz and I headed back to Boston while Cee, Jason, Rob, Chris, Zard and the rest stayed in various places around Great Barrington. Chris and I arrived in Boston by a little past four. I got a wopping three hours of sleep (woo!), waking up at seven on Saturday morning. Yes, I know I'm insane, but hey!, I'm used to getting up at that time during the week for work. Saturday morning ended with me sitting down to write this review.
See everyone (well, those who will be there) in Amherst this afternoon!!
From Zard Snodgrass:
I'm going to try to do this without reading everyone else's posts first - I know that this way I'll repeat some things and forget others, but I want to see what I can get on my own, and give you uninfluenced views. (I'm trying to train my brain to remember Frushows - I always have troubles; I get into Fruphoria and my mind goes blank...)
Chris and I drove through driving rain and New York City Friday night rush hour traffic along a totally clogged Garden State Pkwy to get to this show - it took us 8 hours when it shouldn't've been any more than 6 and 1/2 at most. But, we did arrive well in time to check into our hotel (where we had to call ahead before the desk closed at 9pm, to make sure they'd be there to give us a key!), and make it to the college well in time. Having family friends with a son at the school was most helpful! We got through the gate, and found the dining hall, where a jamming local rockabilly band was just finishing up. The belly dancers went on afterwards, and from what I could see over people and cubbies, they were actually quite good - better than I had expected, of course, I'm no expert in belly-dancing, but they seemed quite limber!
It was pouring by then, and outside the ground was quite squamous (not sure of the exact meaning of that word - think it has to do with skin cells - but it describes this ground perfectly). Remember that - foreshadowing...
Fruvous went on with a cappella (or a rappella, or a manilla... if you're wondering, come by IRC sometime!) Message, and as soon as they did, floaty inflated bits of plastic started flying around the room - large hammers, lips, animals, and other shapes. They slowly dissipated, and Fruvous went on with the show. There was a chatter bit about Jimmy Carter and the Shah of Iran, which, since the majority of the crows was under 18, didn't go over swimmingly, since most of the students hadn't been alive under Carter... There was video screen playing overhead silently, and they were playing a video of a claymation, Mr. Potato-head style version of the State of Georgia talking to another Claymation Carter. It was odd! Later, they played a film, and as they rolled the credits, I realized it had been the original black and white version of Little Shop of Horrors (non-musical, and Jack Nicholson's first film appearance - as the dentist's victim!).
Anyways, there weren't tons of highlights to the show - it was a solid show, but largely filled with the standards. The one really fun part was Sahara, followed by a jam led by Dave (as the other guys all looked left and tried to follow, trying to see where he was going with this), that turned into the Police's Roxanne! And the encore's were funny, because the crowd didn't seem that INTO the show (and actually petered out as the show went on, instead of adding to, as usual), BUT, when it came to encores, they're pros! They got a good chant going, and when Jian teased them about stopping the second the band was back on stage, they started right back up again, all together! I guess that's one thing about being a small school - you all work on the same wavelength.
After the show, we went back to our hotel and chatted, massaged, etc. until about 5 am - ugh!
From Chris Traugott:
Boy did I need this fru-weekend! Zard had had a rather trying month work-wise and I was in my usual state of over extension, so by the time we hit the road mid-day Friday, leaving our respective "real lives" behind for the weekend, both Zard and I were ready for a fru-fix. The driving rain made the trip slightly longer than expected, but we finally made it to Simon's Rock (after three false entrances, in the dark, in the rain….). Thanks to the good graces of a family friend of Zard's and the organizer of the weekend's festivities, we were able to get on campus and to the venue without a hitch. Many thanks to the folks at Simon's Rock who were so nice and welcoming to the travelling fruhead contingent!
The fru-show followed a rockabilly band (upright bass, yeah!) and a group of belly dancers, which was rather a peculiar line up. The venue itself doubled as a dining room, and all the kitchen stuff was covered with shiny metallic material which prompted Dave to comment about the cost of Mylar at Simon's Rock shows. Behind the stage, a light show of sorts danced across the walls, while clay-mation and black and white movies played on a video screen stretched across the ceiling. As soon as the show started, large plastic blow up toys in the shape of hammers, lips, saxophones, guitars, and what not descended on the crowd. After getting hit in the face twice with a balloon hammer ( I think it was a hammer, whatever it was, it hurt) I put aside guilt about being a wet blanket and joined fellow fruheads in discreetly deflating the balloons. Sort of a weird position to be in, as a guest at Simon's Rock I didn't want to be obnoxious and ruin other people's fun, but those darn balloons were awfully distracting, and as I mentioned, getting poked in the eye with one hurt. So, sorry to any Simon's Rock lurkers whose fun I ruined, but you know what Mom always said, it's all fun and games until someone loses an eye. Or whatever.
The show itself was solid, but the guys didn't look like they were having fun. Not that they weren't having fun, but this looked like a "working" night to me. Like those days you have when you are working or studying, or doing whatever you do as a primary occupation every day, and you are doing it well, but it isn't really bringing you any joy. That is sort of what it felt like, to me anyway. Part of it may have been a bit of a rough start to the trip, the guys had trouble getting the merchandise across the border and ended up having to leave it in Canada, which I'm sure did nothing to contribute to the karma of the day. I think part of it, too, may have been the people in the crowd, they were having fun, but the music was sort of a back drop to everything else that was going on; the videos, the blow up toys, the dancing. It wasn't the primary focus for most of the crowd. They didn't really seem to get the music and lyrics, although they enjoyed the show. I was happy to see (and hear!) the Spector, especially on Michigan Militia and Sahara (love the bass line in that song). My favorite moment of the show came at the end, when Fruvous played Drinking Song. I have taken to wearing ear plugs at most shows I go to, (as I average about 10 concerts a month - not just Fruvous shows - this seems prudent) but when the guys came out to play Drinking Song I took the ear plugs out because I wanted to hear all the harmonies. When I took out the ear plugs, I could hear the sound of the rain pattering on the patio just outside the venue, and the sound of the rain drops juxtaposed with the music added a beautiful touch of melancholy to the song.
The rain did more than add a dimension to The Drinking Song, it also made a lovely muddy stew out of the parking lot. Sadly, ceecee's car got sucked into that morass, and despite the best efforts of Jason, roB, Adam, and myself we were unable to dislodge Ariel (the car). Zard, being eminently more practical (or less adventurous, depending on your point of view) called AAA, who informed her that the local garage would be unavailable until morning. Darn, a captive massage therapist in our midst! What could we do but bring her back to our hotel and demand massages? Which we did, but nicely.
Thought some of you might be a little interested in what's been happening at the shows. Firstoff-- check out FDC if you want the setlist of Friday night-- Chris posted that and brief details yesterday morning. It's late, and my campus is going crazy, so this will be short. In fact, I'm just gonna highlight some of the events.
Friday night was a real solid show at Simon's Rock. Most people there were newbies, so it seems Fruvous played a good set for the unknowing and unaware. Unfortunately for me, who had not heard any of the new songs, this also meant no new songs that night. The guys seemed to be having fun up there, despite a crowd that seemed more interested in dancing than the actual music (at first-- later, they seemed to really get into the band). The turnout was not huge-- in fact, the place wasn't quite half-way full (Luckily, Fruvous could only see about 5 rows far, so they had no idea there was empty space in back). Probably the first thing that really struck me that night was... well, it was a large inflatable banana, actually. Apparently, inflatable bananas, hammers, lips, jimmy carters (wait, no, nevermind) and whatever else were a planned activity for the night. Of course, the Fruheads had to go and spoil it =). Not because we suck and we're mean, but because it was distracting to the band, for obvious reasons. So ceecee, Rob, Chris T, Zard, and I grabbed any inflatable we could get our grubby little hands on and immediately unplugged and deflated them, crunching them in a ball, and throwing them on the floor. At one point, it was quite humorous because we'd deflate one and throw it on the ground, and then someone behind us would pick it up, blow it up, and throw it back at us. Thus creating an interesting cycle. Meanwhile, Jason and Chris O were violently stabbing purple cows and yellow bananas in the back. This had a more permanent effect, of course. ("Wow, Moz," you say, "What a stunning narrative!").
Another interesting point to the show was that there were no t-shirts or cds at the merch table. At first, I was very confused. Jian later explained that the border police nabbed them. Basically, they had to send back all the merchandise, because they wouldn't be allowed into the states with it. So I guess the suck factor must have been somewhere around 97% (the other 3% can be accounted for by the stickers and buttons, which DID make it through). Speaking of merch, Jian also mentioned the new "Fru-Miles" card! Apparently this card will replace the Fruhead card, and according to Jian, is, of course, much better. Instead of receiving a stamp for each show, one will receive a certain amount of predetermined miles for that show. So when you hit however many thousand miles or whatever, you get a prize. I'm still not sure EXACTLY how it will work, but it's nice to see that there will be some form of reward program for those who choose to follow them.
From Colleen Campbell:
Well, these'll be rather short, as the shows I attended were; but for you poor starving Midwesterners, three-months-jonesing for a Frufix, it'll be better than nothing, right?
My best friend Adam's alma mater is Simon's Rock College in Great Barrington, and Fruvous's show there was part of "MayFest," a week-long set of festivities and hijinks and an excuse for alums to congregate at this (very tightly-knit and unforgettable) school. It's an early-entrance college (ditching high school early) and tends to bring out a variety of unusual personality traits in its student body, so it's no wonder that this was one of the strangest Fruvous experiences I've yet had.
The band came on at about normal Fruvous time (read: half an hour late or so), to a very rowdy crowd. They were dancing wildly and without much attention to the tenor or the lyrics of the music. Also, I seemed to be under attack from the air, making me wonder if this was perhaps a reenactment of Hitchcock's "The Birds"--but no, it was inflatable bananas, purple cows, and saxophones, many of which I discreetly deflated. Fruvous had a hard time relating to the crowd to begin with, who seemed to be ignoring the beauty and tightness of the a cappella "Message to You" and the cleverness of "Kids' Song" and "Greatest Man in America." As to the banter and speaking bits of the show, Jian especially seemed discomfited by the fact that political polemics didn't impress this group--who were mostly born after Jimmy Carter was in office, for example. But after a while, they began getting into the energy of the crowd and vice versa, and it was like a fusion of music and movement. I saw lots of couples, same-sex and otherwise, dancing to "Fly," tangoing to "Jockey Full of Bourbon," pogoing during "BJ" and "King of Spain," thrashing along with "Love Potion #9," and swaying to "The Drinking Song."
My favorite bit by far was an addition to the set list, "Sahara." I haven't heard that song in almost a year and it's one of my favorites. It was inspired by the fact that the music previous to Fruvous's set was bellydancing (very good, I'm told, but we got there just as it ended) and Fruvous was talking about how they usually do "Raja" but weren't including it; then they realized that they could do another of their Middle-Eastern-flavored tunes and (with some pleading from the Fruhead peanut gallery in the back) launched into it, despite the fact that Mike didn't remember all the words. (Unsurprisingly, he covered with some lyrics made up for the Simon's Rock crowd.) They spun out the ending, playing with the tempo and everyone watching Dave, who grabbed his acoustic and was doing the equivalent of musical giggling until he jumped into "Roxanne" and some other Police teases. It was great.
Afterwards, the band came out and talked to us for quite a while (the
Simon's Rockers were already occupied with more bellydancing) and
mentioned, among other things, a new reward system for the dedicated
Fruhead: "Fru-Miles." Argh! My poor car! As if the 50,000 I've put
on her in the last three years aren't bad enough. . .! And shortly
after that, I was apologizing to her in earnest, finding that I'd
idiotically parked her knee-deep in mud. By the time we gave up on
retrieving her, she'd sunk like Atreyu's horse in the Swamps of
Sadness, in "The Neverending Story." Despite ingenuity from Jason and
grunt-work from Rob, Chris, Zard, and Adam (with cee, massage
therapist extraordinaire, pleading that no one throw out their back),
there was nothing to do but leave her there until the morning, when
the AAA (Avenging Angels of Auto-idiocy) could get a tow truck out
there to retrieve her.
From an attachment to a poster ad at the college promoting the show:
"Alternative Folk Heroes from Canada"
"Within four years, the members of...[the] a cappella, theatrical quartet Moxy Früvous
have gone from being part-time buskers to having a platinum album in their native Canada
and selling out a 55-date domestic tour."
-Billboard, February 1994
"So why, exactly, should four guys who busked their way to fame on the Toronto streets
be worth your time and money? The evidence: some neat songwriting in the Squeeze/Prefab
Sprout mould, a large dose of Housemartin-esque harmonies a la 'Caravan of Love' and a
spoonful or so of Loudon Wainwright III's humour, plus all manner of odd, scrapyard-style
-Vox Magazine, June 1994
"[Last night's Moxy Früvous concert] may have been the show of the year."
-The Winnipeg Free Press, November 1992
"The self-produced Bargainville shines in every way..."
-The Toronto Star, July 1993
"Moxy Früvous...sport a seriously strong line in vocal harmonies, good instrumental
skills used sparingly, an engaging sense of humour that leavens some serious messages in their
intelligent and well-crafted songs, and a completely natural stage presence. Imagine a combination
of barbershop, doo-wop, Phil Ochs, REM and Billy Bragg..."
-Folk Roots (UK), May 1994
"Moxy Früvous...have something to be proud of...With the release of [their] second
full-length recording, Wood, the group has shown that it is more than just four funny
guys with an attitude; the new disc is tender, sophisticated, introspective, and perhaps
-The Georgia Straight (Vancouver, BC), July 1995
"Then again, anyone...will have the chance to gain a new appreciation for the band - this
time, for their Grateful Dead meets Leonard Cogen and Beau Dommage take on modern folk-pop."
-The Gazette (Montreal, PQ), December 1995
"Creatively closer to American artists like Phish or REM, the music of Moxy Früvous is
intricate and intriguing, combining drums, bass, piano, acoustic guitar, accordian, banjo,
harmonica and any number of junkyard percussion tools to support the aforementioned four-part
vocal strength of the band. The resulting mix is reminiscent of many things, the folky dance
rhythms of Poi Dog Pondering, the stylistic songcraft of Squeeze, the lyrics laughs of Loudon
-Observer-Dispatch (Utica, NY), February 1996
Some other tidbits from the performance include: