The first time I saw Ezra Furman I only saw a couple songs and it wasn’t enough for me to make up my mind on his music. I did jump to a few conclusions about him though. He was wearing a white summer dress, and while it was wretchedly hot that day, it was still a dude wearing a dress. Which led me to the conclusion that he’s a little nuts, or he wants us to think he is. Tonight he took the stage wearing what remained of an oversized T-shirt, he’d cut the back out of it and by the end of the set it looked like he was wearing a halter top. And while his apparent neurosis may or may not be real, his music quite definitely is. The little fan club of nerdy hipsters standing directly in front of him for the whole set, jumping up and down and singing along excitedly, attested to that.
And as nerdy hipsters usually are, they were right. Accompanied only by a drummer, he screamed and sang his way through tales of woe and disenchantment. And I loved it. It reminded me of the first time I saw Bright Eyes where I hung on every word of his emotionally complicated songs. He’s cut from the same cloth as former Madisonians Sleeping in the Aviary, another band where I think everyone is a crazy genius. It’s a good sign when, even though I’d only heard the songs once before, I instantly recognized them the next night when he played them again in Madison. I found it interesting that the significant other/antagonist in the ski trip story song was a girl in St Louis, but a boy the next night when he was wearing a cute little, very feminine, flowered romper. I picked up the new album the second night, and listening to it was like seeing the show all over again. I also gave the drummer my card and told him they should play at my house the next time they were back this way. I sincerely hope to hear from him.
When I toured the west coast the second time with HHT they were doing a series of co-headlining shows with Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin. I enjoyed their quirky pop and the guys were all super friendly. So I was a little surprised to find out that one of the lead singers had left the band, and the one who sang the majority of the songs at that. What was even more interesting was that I didn’t actually miss him. They still sounded great, and even though Phil doesn’t have the better of the two voices, he does sing “Yellow Missing Signs.” The reto-80’s sounding tune about three girls who disappeared from their hometown of Springfield is much catchier than its dark subject matter would imply, and it is definitely my favorite SSLYBY song.
It had been a long time since I had seen Ha Ha Tonka so it was great to be able to spend three days with them. Hopefully when the new record (which already may be my second favorite HHT record) comes out I can hit the road with them again. I’ve missed my boys.
Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin
Ha Ha Tonka