I was talking with some guys before this show, and I was saying that I felt a little weird about reviewing this show after my wife and I went out to dinner with the band’s lead singer and his girlfriend (two extremely nice people). I feel like I can still be objective when it comes to the music, but I’ve decided to run some videos so you can judge for yourself.
I’m also going to throw in some excerpts from the review I wrote of The Atlas way back in early March (in bold), before I met David and Fort Frances was just another in a long line of bands pleading their case to be heard (not really). A lot has changed since then. The band was runner-up in the Chicago Reader’s poll for Best New Local Band (tying with Smith Westerns), and their headed out on a nice tour across the midwest and plains, all the way to the Rocky Mountains.
Fort Frances does make a real connection with some aspects of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot. Mainly I find it in the quiet spaces between the folk-pop verses and somewhat Beatles-esque refrains. There’s a good deal of sonic dissonance at work in the background almost always.
This one is new, so no need to rehash old remarks. I saw it performed by David solo at Schubas a couple months ago, and I thought it was really strong. With the full band it’s that much better. Look for it to appear on WXRT sometime soon, I assume.
“Falling Down” would be the most radio-friendly song on the album. It’s kind of a hybrid of the better stuff Coldplay does and David Gray. If you download and dig the album, this track would make a good introduction to play for your friends.
Another new one. I actually think this is the more radio-friendly of the two new songs, but I think “I Had Love” plays better live. I’m not sure how much material the band has written for the next album, but if these two are any indication, we’re in for a real treat.
The Atlas is definitely more pop than Rainy Day Music, but I think they share a lot of common musical influences. Fort Frances singer David McMillin has a voice that isn’t entirely reminiscent of Gary Louris or Mark Olson, but in the harmonies and overdubs, there’s definitely a sonic similarity.
The show was a lot of fun for me. The crowd seemed to be digging it, and a lot of people knew the words to most of the songs, which is always a good sign. It’s weird watching someone you know perform a show like this. I always wonder how Mick Jagger’s childhood friends feel when they see him up on stage doing the rooster walk or some other rock move. I know when I’m watching Fort Frances, I often think, “What is Michael Showalter doing on the stage?” because when David starts rocking out his hair flops around and it reminds me of Coop from Wet Hot American Summer.
If you enjoyed the videos, head over to my youtube channel, where I will be uploading the rest of the show. And if you’d like to see some of the amazing pics from the show, check out Kari’s gallery on facebook.
If you couldn’t make it out to the show, but are looking for something similar and live in the Chicago area, head over to Taste of Chicago on Saturday July 2nd and check out the recently reunited Jayhawks. Admission is free!