handsome furs [2011]

San Francisco, CA
3 September 2011

When does a side project cease to be a side project? Should an eclipse of the original band be mourned or celebrated?

Don’t get me wrong: Wolf Parade’s Apologies to the Queen Mary is still one of my favorite albums of all time. But Spencer Krug’s Sunset Rubdown and Dan Boeckner’s Handsome Furs have (in my mind) clearly surpassed the original union.

So I’m going to go ahead and celebrate it. Because there wasn’t a whole lot else I could do this past Saturday night at Slim’s, what with the jam-packed sold out crowd of joyous bouncing, churning bodies surrounding me.

I’ve always thought of Boeckner as the more straight-ahead rock half of Wolf Parade, with Krug playing the role of the mad wizard, spinning fantasy-themed epic tales. For this reason, most Wolf Parade songs are quickly discernable as either Krug or Boeckner.

With Handsome Furs, Boeckner takes his guitar-driven rock and adds some lively keyboards. The first two albums certainly contained these electronic elements, but Boeckner’s guitar was always there, even if in the background. Their latest release, Sound Kapitol, though, is an absolute electronic dance party. Saturday, there was literally a skinny shirtless guy running through the crowd with a little backpack. I never saw ’em, but I swear there were glow sticks in that backpack.

The band is the aforementioned Boeckner and his now wife Alexei Perry (when Handsome Furs formed in 2006, they weren’t official). I’ve been trying to figure out a more balanced way of saying this, but I really don’t like Perry. She’s probably a great person…in person. But on stage, she’s two notches above obnoxious. I’m sure a significant majority of the audience that night would have absolutely disagreed with me, but I found her antics silly and distracting.

Basically, while Boeckner played guitar (or keyboards) and sang, Perry did her best Richard Simmons/Molly Shannon impression, bouncing around the stage like some sort of hipster, skirt-wearing kangaroo. She spent much of the set jumping on objects around the stage and ended several songs standing behind her keyboard, with one leg completed extended, foot resting by her head. If she wasn’t on some kind of amphetamine, she’s got some amazing natural energy.

Perhaps it’s the fact that she doesn’t have the strongest voice, or seem to have contributed all that much to the actual music being performed that night, but I’m just not a big fan.

All that said, it really was still a fantastic show. I will absolutely be there the next time they come through town. Maybe this time, though, I’ll keep my eyes focused on one half of the stage.