girls with low self-esteem

I am truly a fair weather awards show guy. I get annoyed & dismissive when undeserving crap takes home trophies, but I am also delighted when the best shows actually manage to get recognized. Now I didn't see much of Sunday nite's Emmy awards, but I was pleased with some of the results.

For the second year in a row, Jon Stewart won for best variety show for his utterly essential The Daily Show, beating out fellow Comedy Central employee Dave Chappelle and his likewise deserving Show. Another highlight was James Spader's win for his work on the final season of The Practice. Spader's oddball performance breathed new life into the aging Practice, which had long since jumped the shark. Now I didn't watch that show much last year (I was pretty bored by all the other characters), but I may end up tuning into Spader's Practice spin-off Boston Legal post HBO/Law & Order: Criminal Intent on Sunday nites this fall.

Lastly, the best comedy series prize was awarded to Arrested Development, whose lackluster ratings had the show on the verge of cancellation all year despite across-the-board critical acclaim. Fox wisely rolled the dice & ordered a second season, and one can only hope that this Emmy win will help solidify its place on the primetime schedule. AD is one of the smartest & funniest shows I've ever come across, and I highly recommend picking up the season 1 dvd, which comes out October 19. For more info, visit our friends over at The O.P., the best AD fansite I've come across.

The best drama category went to The Sopranos, which won almost be default since most of the shows that usually get nominated had sub-par years. Appropriately, the best show on television IMO, HBO's The Wire - which received zero emmy nods - had its season premiere airing opposite the awards ceremony. The show's third season will bring take a look at how local Baltimore politics impacts on the city's street level drug trade & the police whose job it is to put a stop to it. The Wire is packed to the gills with detail, personality & nuance (no, it's not a dirty word). It's smart, gritty, real television, and I am incredibly psyched that it's finally back.

better believe it's freezing cold

So here's a lousy & forced segueway: I caught a bit of David Cross (AD's Tobias) on the cringe-worthy E! post-Emmys wrap-up, and he was doing his best to poke fun at the silliness of pompous awards show coverage. In the liner notes for his most recent comedy cd It's Not Funny (out on Sub Pop), Cross rather randomly mentions:

Also, check out the Fiery Furnaces' album, Gallowsbird's Bark. It's great.

Hey, I just saw those guys! And holy crap, were they great!

Toshi Yano (bass/synth)'s setlist; Eleanor's was slightly different, btw.

Saturday nite's show at the 400 Bar turned out to be a triple bill, with the French Kicks playing playing first. JRDN (who gifted me a sweet November 2 T for my b-day) & I saw the Kicks open for The Walkmen at the 400 back in March & weren't all that impressed, so we chilled it out & had a few beers during their set before heading toward the stage to get a better view.

MP3 White Magic - "One-Note"
I was impressed with White Magic, who played next on the bill. I had picked up their Through The Sun Door EP (from which this is the lead-off track) at Other Music when I was in NYC this summer after hearing a couple tracks via blogs, so I at least knew what they sounded like, unlike JRDN who hadn't heard a thing. The trio began their set wearing asian-style masks (except for vocalist/keyboardist Mira Billotte, who kept hers propped above her face so she could sing), which actually complimented their semi-haunting melodies quite well. Their live set was both intense & groovy, and though they didn't play "Keeping The Wolves From The Door" like I wanted them to, I was pretty happy with what I heard/saw of White Magic. Good stuff & a nice warm-up for the main attraction.

From what I recall from when I saw them at the 7th Street Entry last year, Matthew & Eleanor Friedberger (aka the Fiery Furnaces) had quite a few people on stage with them as their live backing band. Or least I think there were more than the somewhat stripped down four piece we saw at the 400, which included (wildman) Andy Knowles on drums and Toshi Yano on bass & synthesizer. And unlike the last time around, Eleanor stuck to being the woman out front & decided not to pick up her own guitar. I didn't mind.

MP3 The Fiery Furnaces - "My Dog"
I found this version of "My Dog" (entitled "My Dog Was Lost But Now He's Found" on the Blueberry Boat LP) on some Furnaces website (I remember having to register or something) way back when. It was labeled as an outtake from the "sbn session," which I know nothing about. However, you can clearly hear that this was recorded around the time of their debut album Gallowsbird's Bark, as it sounds a lot like the material on that cd rather than the stripped down, piano-driven version that appears on BB. Frankly, I like this version better.

Likewise, the Furnaces' live set sounded a lot more like the gruff, punkish blues-pop of Gallowsbird's Bark, though it was structured more like the long & complex Blueberry Boat, with many songs interwoven as part of a larger whole. At last year's Entry show, the Friedbergers played one of their more extended BB songs (I think it was "Quay Cur," but I'm not sure) toward the end of their set & lost much of the audience. Of course, this was long before BB was released & nobody really knew the song, but it was also stripped down more instrumentally, sounding pretty similar to how it does on the album IIRC - which didn't translate well in a live setting IMO.

From what I saw at the 400 Bar, the Furnaces have retooled their live performance in order to better integrate their Blueberry Boat material for an audience. Their whole set was a non-stop, high energy showcase for their brainy yet oddball lyrics & eclectic blues-rock musicianship, and the audience just ate it up. Instead of playing all of the ten minute "Quay Cur," they played parts of it at different places in the set, interspersing them between songs from Gallowsbird's Bark and parts of other BB songs in a organized yet chaotic fashion that pushed & pulled at exactly the right moments. It all made for a truly excellent rock set, which didn't need to be a minute longer (though we certainly asked for them to keep playing).

Aside from Matt having some keyboard issues ("Sorry, my piano is broken," he said before launching into one of his vocal sections) & a couple weirdos shouting, "I love you, Eleanor!" it was an amazing show, and a great way to celebrate turning 26 (which I did about mid-way through the Furnaces' set). If you have a chance to see them, don't think twice about it. Do it.
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