Dead of Winter + Fiery Furnaces

Music seen at SPACE Gallery, January 18-19
By CHRISTOPHER GRAY  |  January 23, 2008

It was a weekend of big acts and big crowds at SPACE Gallery, as about 200 people joined the parade of local songwriters that is Dead of Winter on Friday, and a sold-out audience greeted the Fiery Furnaces on Saturday.

Dead of Winter’s huge audience dampened its impact a bit (it’s tough to huddle around the proverbial campfire when more than half of the crowd is socializing in the back of a venue), but many of the night’s performers were up to the task. Most of the highlights were covers: event curator Ian Paige revisited his lilting, infectious cover of Hank Williams’s “You’re Gonna Change (Or I’m Gonna Leave);” Chris Teret and Josh Loring took on different facets of Bob Dylan to impassioned effect (Teret with an obscure track from Dylan’s preacher phase, while Loring handled the rambling poet). The Hot Tarts’s Lana Eddy brought a much-needed boost of indie-pop looseness with a take on Grant Lee Buffalo’s “Drag,” and Rustic Overtones’ Dave Noyes joined Brown Bird’s Jerusha Robinson for a two-celloed take on a classical Bela Bartok piece. The most audacious cover came from Samuel James, who closed things out with a gospel, a capella, hambone (playing a beat off of your own body) cover of the Ramones’ “The KKK Took My Baby Away.” I’d also be remiss not to mention Vince Nez, the night’s most frequent collaborator, whose DNA must consist of equal parts Sam James and wild mountain cat.

As for Saturday’s Furnaces set, it was a lot like listening to their albums: willfully difficult, requiring energy to be up for the challenge. Probably a full third of the audience fled the abrupt tempo changes and synth skronks after four or five songs, but the band improved as their set progressed. Both Eleanor and Matthew Friedberger loosened up as the foursome grew tighter, warranting comparisons that ranged from Patti Smith to Frank Zappa to Rush. It may not have been a great time, but it was a trip for sure.

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