Way back in December 2008, I saw Frightened Rabbit open for Biffy Clyro at Manchester Academy. And whilst Biffy ultimately ruled the day, I went home and treasured my copy of Frightened Rabbit's truly excellent The Midnight Organ Fight. A year and a half later, and with The Midnight Organ Fight becoming the cult classic it deserved to be, Frightened Rabbit turn up, headline and sell out Club Academy on their tour to promote their new album, The Winter of Mixed Drinks.
It's been a long and tough road for the Selkirk lads though. Or rather, for Scott Hutchinson, who has, over the course of seven years, nurtured the band through a solo career, a three-piece, four-piece and now finally culminating in the current lineup of five. And whilst they have added a piano, an extra guitar and some new effects to the mix, their passionate songs of everything from leper love stories to broken-heart breakups have touched the very few who have heard them. And whilst they have received widespread critical acclaim, and a have a incredible live set, they are yet to achieve the fame the critics say they should have.
They didn't play alone tonight, though, with the sole position of opening going to local band Airship. Handpicked for good reasons, Airship do more than enough to win a some new fans by playing a blend of indie rock not dissimilar to the headliners. And whilst the technical issues affected early on, they battled on to receive the warm applause they deserved. Weird artwork on the EP, though.
But tonight was about Frightened Rabbit reaching the bottom rung of the next ladder tonight, the ladder to the fame and fortune they truly deserve. And whilst I would love to keep them playing small rooms forever, these guys deserve to hit the big time, and will do after new albums like theirs, and shows like this.
Starting off with songs off the new album, however, may have confused those not able to find it--it wouldn't actually be released for another four days. And whilst it meant that it was silent enough to appreciate the band more, FR are at their peak with their acoustic guitars and the audience firmly with them. With a sound thought unattainable for such a small room, the crowd took no time at all to belt out their favourites from The Midnight Organ Fight, with the capstone being a solo version of "Backwards Walk"; no "Snake," though (boo). How they managed to be louder than the sound system, I'll never know, and how such a band with delicate riffs, their realistically downbeat lyrics and punchy electronics can't generate such an energy and unabashed good time, I'll never know either. How is it possible for a crowd to sing along with such a vigor to a song about despairing love? That's Frightened Rabbit for you.
With great crowd commitment, interaction and energy, I can only hope that this new album is all they need to finally get the rewards they deserve. But, as I was walking home, I discovered that the decidedly awful Passion Pit sold out the infinitely larger Academy 1, forcing me to walk through unbearable swathes of preening teenage girl fans. Something doesn't seem right here.