Fort Frances at Schubas 9/23/2015

Earlier this year Fort Frances put out their latest EP, No One Needs To Know Our Name. It’s managed to stay in my top 20 releases of 2015 through a summer that saw a lot of good music, so definitely check it out if you haven’t. It’s on Spotify and iTunes (not yet on Tidal). The album is markedly different from previous efforts, leaving behind the band’s alt-country roots in favor of more straightforward pop/rock.

The live show has also taken a step, introducing Jason Ryan as a close-to-full-time member. His presence helps in a lot of little ways, but one big thing is that there’s someone who can play keys on all the songs that need them instead of lead singer David McMillin or bassist Jeff Piper having to put down their main instrument to go play piano. It gives them a much fuller live sound, and frees David up to focus his energy on being a frontman instead of worrying about transitioning back and forth.

Last night David was more animated than usual, throwing his hands in the air recklessly. At one point he slammed the mic stand down and seconds later it toppled and broke (rock stars, man. No regard for others property). This may have been the first time I’ve seen him really COMMAND a stage. He was electric and I almost never took my eyes off of him.

They played a bunch of material, covering some of their older stuff but focused mainly on the new EP and the upcoming record. The guy that introduced them to the audience said October, but they say next year so it looks like it’ll be a while before we hear the whole thing. Some of the songs that will be on it have been around for a long time, though. “Building A Wall” is a tune I heard them play last summer at Ribfest. Sounds like it has evolved a little bit, but it’s still the same great song I loved the first time.  

The sparks really flew at the end of the show when Fort Frances unleashed their cover of LCD Soundsystem’s “All My Friends.” This was completely out of the blue from a band whose other covers include Paul Simon, Daniel Johnston, Dire Straits, and of course, DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince. The band put together an incendiary performance of the song, that featured more frenzied energy than all the other Fort Frances shows I’ve seen combined.

They have a couple shows coming up, including a not-so-secret acoustic brunch gig at Chicago Athletic Association on Michigan Ave in Chicago this Sunday for Sofar Sounds (you can APPLY for tickets here). Fort Frances is poised to take the next step, so you better catch them now before they’re selling out bigger venues.