NORTHAMPTON - Most bands piece together a list of songs before the show and then go out and play the list. But not Moxy Fruvous, which had a different trick with which to treat its fans this Halloween weekend at the Iron Horse.
Any Fruvous show is sheer delight, but Friday's - the first of two consecutive nights of sold-out shows - reached heavenly heights of entertainment.
Fruvous (don't ask about the name; they'll tell you a different tall tale every time) is a platinum-selling Canadian band which is still building a fan base here. Bassist Murray Foster, drummer Jian Ghomeshi, guitarist Mike Ford and accordion and banjo player Dave Matheson started working on the streets together in 1990, singing a cappella and using every busker trick in the book to attract an audience.
Over time, they developed split-second timing, raucous camaraderie, and shimmering four-part harmonies that define their shows today. Part of the groove band scene, they turn the jam ethos upside down. Their songs are fixed; they improvise with their stage patter.
Friday, they each read part of a narrative about a boy named B.J. and the adventures he had searching for his true love, Rachel. Woven into the story were song titles; whenever they reached one, they sang the song.
For example, they started with "B.J. Don't Cry," and when B.J. hitchhiked, they did "Get In the Car." When B. J. encountered a crazed girl throwing matches at furniture, it was the intro to an exciting cover of "Psycho Killer," complete with a dead-on David Byrne imitation.
The famous Fruvous political bite was there, as when in "Pisco Bandido," Ghomeshi read, "It was the first materialistic and criminal fish B.J. had ever seen . . . I wonder if he was a Kenneth Starrfish."
They also threw in as many pop culture and musical quotes as they could, including a lovely version of Simon and Garfunkle's "Homeward Bound" along with their own Beatlesque [sic] "Lazlo's Career" and a stunning a cappella version of "You Will Go To The Moon."
And that was only the first 100-minute set. They took a break; then launched into another all-out, hour-long set of hot music that included "Michigan Militia" and the rapid "Johnny Saucep'n."
After pointing out that B.J. never found his Rachel, they brought a Rachel from the audience on stage for a surprise proposal from her boyfriend.
Rachel said yes and Fruvous continued with the syncopated "King of Spain." Their closer was a hilarious mix of "Walk on the Wild Side" with "Dancing Queen."
Jess Klein, a diminutive blonde Ani DiFranco clone, opened the show and won the audience's heart with her powerful Ani-voice and Ani-attitude.