The Scene: eTown Hall is one of Boulder’s most unique rooms. The one-time church turned venue and recording studio only seats 200 but continues to draw artists capable of selling out much larger venues. Recently the intimate room was sold-out for Scottish Indie rockers Frightened Rabbit and internet celebrity and singer-songwriter Nataly Dawn. The tiny church was a stark contrast to Frightened Rabbit’s last visit to Colorado, a sold-out, beer drenched show at the Gothic in March. [Editor’s Note: Read our review of that show here] The well behaved audience was seated, silent, and ready for a unique opportunity to see both performance and conversation well before host Nick Forster played that iconic guitar line signaling another taping of the eTown radio show.
Frightened Rabbit: Frightened Rabbit’s dark and brooding Indie-Rock is the product of the mind of singer Scott Hutchison and is his way of dealing with his demons. During Wednesday’s taping he joked that he’d probably be dead without the outlet of music. This dark side is counterbalanced with an extremely loveable sense of humor that is filled with self-deprecation, occasional profanity and dry wit. He held very little back during the recording which will reach some one million listeners, presumably after the removal of a handful of profanities.
The band brought a good amount of energy and volume to eTown, a show that infrequently features the kind of overdrive and pounding drums that Frightened Rabbit brought to the room. The audience applause was also notably louder than normal. Even with the added drive and hard drumming, eTown Hall was still able to hold its place as one of the best sounding rooms I’ve seen a show in.
After the band’s first set Hutchison sat down with Nick Forster for an interview. The two spoke about the inclusion of the rest of the members in the writing process on Pedestrian Verse, their charity work with Invisible Children, and dealing with comparisons to Mumford & Sons. The crowd groaned at the mention of “The Mumford band” and Scott chimed in lightheartedly, “Here’s the thing, I’ve got like a half hour bit on this, sit tight.” He explained that there were a few comparisons made to some of his early work, which he pointed out was written when Mumford & Sons were “but a glisten in their mother’s eye.” He went on to add “Of course they became popular. They became popular for a reason, because they provide something that makes people happy and it’s very easy to understand and I don’t mean that in a good way. The comparisons I don’t think are very valid anymore.” Hutchison has spoken out in general dislike of Mumford’s music in the past and it was a bit of a risky line of questioning from Forster, who ran the risk of annoying Hutchison. It was hard to say if he was annoyed or enjoying the chance to rant. Either way, it was entertaining. No matter where you stand on either band, if you listen to any of their latest albums back to back you’ll find very few similarities and, I’d argue, much more genuine emotion in the music of Frightened Rabbit.
“This song has a ‘f*ck’ in it. Should I self-censor?” Hutchison directed to sidestage through his thick Scottish accent. After what was apparently a lack of an answer he said “f*ck it” and went ahead, unedited. In line with his earlier comments, he mentioned playing a radio show in Boston where they were given a list of words that they couldn’t say on the radio. He joked, “I hardly ever say ‘c*cksucker’ anyway unless I was talking about Mumford and Sons” to a huge laugh from the audience. I’m guessing that one won’t make the air.
Many highlights of their set came from last year’s Pedestrian Verse. One of many songs of tales of the narrator’s shortcomings, “Late March Death March,” drew a huge applause. The explosive chorus of fan favorite “The Woodpile” felt uniquely un-eTown in its full rock fervor. It was at this point, and a few others, that I wished I could make the chairs disappear and channel the crowd energy from their March show in Denver.
Nataly Dawn: When I first read that Nataly Dawn gained popularity through YouTube covers of artists like Lady Gaga and Beyonce I was very skeptical. I assumed she was some pretty twentys-omething with a nice voice and no musical legs of her own. Well, it turns out I was right about the pretty part, but quite wrong beyond that. Her and boyfriend Jack Conte have gained 88 million YouTube views with interesting covers and originals under the band name Pomplamoose. She’s a multi-instrumentalist, talented vocalist and has a quirky personality both on and off camera. Through a wildly successful Kickstarter campaign, raising over $100k in 50 days, Nataly was able to record and release How I Knew Her earlier this year.
She began with the Greek mythology themed “Araceli” with co-host Helen Forster singing harmony. Her brand of singer-songwriter pop is powered by catchy sliding melodies and a snappy beat. Scott Hutchinson from Frightened Rabbit came out to sit in the audience during her set, not a common occurrence at eTown.”This is a song about my family thinking I’m going to hell.” Nataly said to a laughing audience as she introduced “Still a Believer.” She kept the audience laughing with the built in punchline of “If you ever meet my grandma, don’t believe her.”
Nick Forster and Nataly shared an easy going conversation about growing up with missionaries as parents, how they used covers to draw people to their originals, playing a big show at a laundromat and their non-traditional rise to popularity through YouTube. Nick joked, “It’s pretty hard to extract any career advice from the things you’ve done.”
The night ended in the eTown tradition of the hosts, both artists, and the eTones collaborating on a cover. On a suggestion that was most certainly Nataly’s, the musicians joined on a coffee shop friendly cover of Michael Jackson’s “Beat It.” Nataly’s coy vocals accompanied by Hutchison during the chorus were a welcome take on a pop classic. Be sure to catch the recording when it airs on your local station in a couple months.
Stage Presence: A
Set/Light Show: A