I certainly didn’t expect to be charmed by Ezra Furman when I saw him open for Ha Ha Tonka this summer, but that’s exactly what happened. The scrawny, awkward singer with a penchant for wearing dresses seemed odd at first, but ended up awing me with his smart, catchy songs over the course of two nights in St Louis and Madison. It seems obvious to compare him to Elliot Kozel (of the brilliant Sleeping in the Aviary) who also made interesting fashion choices and also struck me as a crazy genius. His unique voice isn’t for everyone, but he certainly had some fans in the Dragonfly Lounge tonight. Impressive since I hadn’t seen anything about the show anywhere except on Furman’s website. Madison’s newest venue is in the basement of the Bellini restaurant, and a friend has dubbed it the Regal Beagle based on its resemblance to the Three’s Company gang’s hangout (I have to take her word for that).
I was madly in love with the Year of No Returning, his first record sans backing band the Harpoons, released either this year or last depending on where you look, and which I bought back in June, so I was a little sad that he played mostly tunes from his brand new record The Day of the Dog. But only a little, because the tunes on this record are just as good. The last time through he was backed very efficiently by only a drummer (the very cool Sam, who actually remembered me), but tonight he was supported by a full band, including keys and sax. The latter is surprisingly effective, not in a cheesy Huey Lewis sort of way, but in a demanding and demented jazz sort of way. It propels many of the songs on the record, including the hummable title track and the brilliant “My Zero.”
My experience with the Dragonfly thus far had been that they have too many bands and never start on time, happily the two band bill started barely a half hour late. Opener the Current Seas (meant to be read like “currencies” I’m guessing) was a pleasant surprise. This was their first gig, but the lead singer/guitar player was immediately familiar. World traveler Brett Newski has been a recognizable face on the Madison music scene for many years, despite having spent the last couple years in Vietnam, and he played a well-received opening set at the house a few months back. For his newest endeavor he is backed by the rhythm section of a super cool chick bass player Ellie Maybe and Dan Stoffels on drums. The first time I met Dan, who also does sound at the Frequency, Newski introduced him as Dan Auerbach from the Black Keys- based on the same first name and his remarkable resemblance to him. Funny thing is the Deadstring Brothers had called him the same thing. I really enjoyed them, perhaps even more than Newski’s solo stuff, and look forward to seeing them again soon.
As for Furman, I hope to see him again even sooner.
The Current Seas