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The Fiery Furnaces

The White Stripes, the Kills, the Raveonettes… bands formed by a boy and girl couple are popular at the moment, however, this is the only thing that the aforementioned bands have in common with the band we want to talk about: the Fiery Furnaces, that is the name of the brother-sister duo formed by Matthew and Ellen Fiedberger, who seem to do just what they feel like to do at any time, as a result their music is always an unpredictable mix of different registers going from the most conventional pop, through blues and folk to sounds that remind you of a Weimar cabaret show. This musical kaleidoscope and the constant change of rhythms and melodies may be difficult to assume the first time you listen to it, but then it becomes indispensable for you once you are familiar with the stuff.

I arrived to the club just when the support band was finishing their show and couldn’t avoid feeling egoistically happy that there were not as many people as usual in the audience, so I could manage to get a place just in front of the stage and began curiously watching what was on it to see if the band was bringing along more members for their live show. I could see drums, a couple of guitars and a bass, but strangely enough there was no keyboard. As I was thinking of the rather naive possibility that they would take it out later I realised that the background music had stopped and now I could hear a kind of tale that I suspected was the intro for the Fiery Furnaces gig. Then the brother and sister duo appeared on stage followed by two more persons who took the bass and drums. They began to play ‘Chris Michaels’ from their second album Blueberry Boat, or a cover of the same, as it sounded significantly more rocking than on the record due to the increase of guitar effects and distortions that were intended to fill the hole of the missing keyboard.

The same thing happened with all of the ensuing songs, many of them were even really difficult to recognise before Ellen had began to sing the chorus. For the first time I regretted having heard so much music by the band before the concert, because I know that if I hadn’t been so familiarized with the songs I would have enjoyed the really nice rock concert they were giving instead of waiting for the sound of the keyboard to appear. I also missed the voice of Matthew, because it was far too low and also because many of his vocals were being sung by his sister. I think that most of the audience was as puzzled as me, they remained, quietly paying attention to the different songs and then they suddenly surprised themselves by dancing and singing, having recognized the lyrics of a single like ‘Tropical Ice-Land’ or ‘Single Again’. And among all this novelty, the band also introduced to us a couple of new songs, which seemed to me to be more melodic than the rest, but who knows if the result on CD will be the same.

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The show concluded after having played an encore, and I couldn’t resist taking the opportunity to talk to Matthew and asked him about the absence of the keyboard, he didn’t seem to like the question but kindly answer me that he simply felt boring having to sit on the keyboard all the time and he had preferred to try just to play his guitar with his pedal on this occasion, which he found much more exciting. He also justified his choice by telling me that he doesn’t like the bands who simply replicate their records at their live shows. I agree with that and I admire the bands which just do what they feel like to do and use their gigs to experiment with their music, but I am also happy to know that it was only a one-time thing and I hope that next time I can enjoy their songs a little bit more as I discovered them and as they caught me more and more every time I listened to their CDs.

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