There’s a hidden numerology of touring bands. Reset the odometer before the first gig and take a dashboard photo at the end. Stick your hand inside a coat pocket and draw out a crumpled baggage claim stub. Flight numbers, hotel room numbers, wifi passcodes posted on the dressing room wall – if you record and decode them, does it make blurred memories from the road more comprehensible?
Numerals also appear in Frightened Rabbit’s art for their latest EP, Painting of a Panic Attack (produced by The National’s Aaron Dessner). The album cover shows a grey-toned structure rising out of a barren field, bearing the number 618. The same number is printed on the band’s guitar picks. (Scroll to the end for my guess on what 618 represents.)
On Tuesday night at Brooklyn Steel, a projection of this album artwork formed the backdrop as the band took the stage to thunderous applause, launching into the propulsive “Get Out.” The song (from the latest album) was a cathartic opening to the show, with its heady mix of visceral metaphors (“there’s a name on my chest in red, the embossing of a branded bull”) and the repeated choral bursts as the narrator exhorts, more to himself than to his ex-lover, “Get out of my heart.”
And numbers cropped up again when frontman Scott Hutchison bantered mid-set about the years that have elapsed since writing some of the first songs. “You realize that your songs about f*cking — they’re now old enough to start f*cking … ” he remarked, eliciting laughter from the packed venue.
More than a decade after the release of Sing the Greys (2006), the Glasgow-based band –Hutchison (vox, guitar); his brother, Grant Hutchison (percussion); Billy Kennedy (bass, keys); Andy Monaghan (guitar, keys); and Simon Liddell (guitar, keys) – have earned veteran status while gathering a loyal legion of fans along the way – some of whom traveled from as far as Glasgow and Nova Scotia for the show.
Free of the need to promote a new album, the band played a well-balanced mix of songs from Midnight Organ Fight (2008), Winter of Mixed Drinks (2010), Pedestrian Verse (2013), and Painting of a Panic Attack (2016); with a deep cut into “Square 9” from their debut album. The rendition of “Death Dream” during the encore was particularly arresting – the pacing and instrumentation hitting the sweet spot of widescreen yet intimate sonics.
Midway through the set, in “Woke Up Hurting,” Hutchison relates: “slug through the day, sneak between the houses I have made.” The weight of kilometers logged and regrets registered form an undercurrent to many of these songs. But while the subject matters are often somber, they’re treated with clever turns of phrase and fine-grained metaphors. And with soaring arrangements and catchy choruses (most shows end with an audience sing-along to “Keep Yourself Warm”), Frightened Rabbit turns heartbreak into compelling rock ‘n roll shows, night after night.
Bel Aviv kicked off the evening in Brooklyn in fine fashion. Torres, who has been touring with Frightened Rabbit on the east coast, played a fiercely-beautiful set that included new material as well as crowd favorites from Sprinter.
*Note: 618 / 120201311 appears on the back of Painting of a Panic Attack. The numbers 6 and 18 correspond to the letters F and R. Follow the same logic and you’ll figure out what 120201311 represents (or, at least, what I think it represents).
Article: Vivian Wang