Handsome Furs
Satellite Ballroom; Charlottesville, VA

With anticipation for the upcoming Wolf Parade disc reaching fever pitch, Dan Boeckner’s other outfit, Handsome Furs, is still touring in the wake of last year’s debut, Plague Park. Alongside wife Alexei Perry, Boeckner uses the Furs as a conduit for the more electronic-oriented side of his musical self. Teaming his live guitar parts with Perry’s frenetic fingers while grappling with various knobs and keys, the couple creates music that's equal parts trippy electronica and conventional indie rock.

With this as a backdrop, the band greeted a small but devoted crowd with a fantastic set, especially for an act armed with such a limited pool of material. Boeckner’s throaty vocals were perhaps the most impressive part of the show, as they were more dynamic and forceful than on the Furs’ recorded output. In listening to Plague Park after the show, I’m still frustrated over its lack of the crisp and soaring quality that Boeckner and Perry are able to convey in their live performance. Throughout the set, the pair was loaded with a contagious brand of energy, and it all came spilling out through Boeckner’s voice and Perry’s impassioned electronic work. Stationed at the front of the stage, a gold necklace encircling her neck like the end of a lasso, Perry bounced about brandishing a smile that was impossible to ignore, as the duo bubbled with exuberance and communicated every bit of nuanced emotional expression.

Refreshingly, the band was very gracious and pleased with the occasion, churning out tune after tune and fitting each with both a compelling tension between live music and recorded sources and a visible harmony between husband and wife (made possible in part because of the egalitarian arrangement of the couple). All the expected standouts from Plague Park made appearances, with the euphoric momentum of “Dead + Rural” emerging as the centerpiece of an altogether engaging performance. Boeckner’s mumbling of “la, la, la, la” near the close of “Sing! Captain” was a second highlight, as the set slowed for a contemplative moment, allowing the lazy vocals to wash against an enraptured crowd.

In the dead space between songs, Boeckner’s banter was a source of additional entertainment. He laughed over his recent April Fool’s revelation that the new Wolf Parade record is titled Kissing the Beehive. He confessed that he’d been falsely telling audiences that one song (I’ve forgotten which) was about his time at Columbia, and then admitted that he’d never attended the Manhattan Ivy and didn’t vacation at Cape Cod, taking obvious swipes at the drab though upcoming Vampire Weekend. In another instance, Boeckner acknowledged some fans that had come from Indiana to catch the show, jokingly regarding the move as “retarded.”

The night didn’t settle the endless Spencer-Dan debate that captivates so many music nerds and bleeds across the internet. It did, however, provide a forum for Dan to showcase talents that seem so often overshadowed by the wondrously prolific Spencer Krug. It created excitement for what’s to come from a guy with such varied and gifted musical abilities, someone who’s been able to retain that youthful enthusiasm usually lost to the business of music-making.

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