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Alive and Kicking: Hey Marseilles, Friends and Harlequins Live at High Dive

Posted by September 17th, 2007 No Comments »

The sun briefly peered through the clouds early Sunday night, ending a daylong refusal to directly show itself. Around the High Dive, those touched by the heavenly beams found themselves happier, lighter. And then the music began.

Fiends and Harlequins are a local unsigned trio who madly dance the boundary between indulgence and adventure. Whipping through genres and melodies, they evoke Pink Floyd refracted through an At The Drive In Lens, an ADHD acid addict following brilliant tangents through darkened streets until they give way to the water.

The men of Fiends and Harlequins – bassist Josh Halbert (Fiend), guitarist Alex Bishop (Harlequin), and drummer Steve Barci (Fiend and Harlequin)–are all highly skilled in their instruments, but it is as a unit that they show of how much they are capable: songs stop, start, change and resolve, absurdly complex lines are mirrored between instruments, and rhythms writhe and buck like irate bulls. It never falls apart though, even as it veers towards double digit noise instrumentals and obscure song constructions, but these are small quibbles in an otherwise noteworthy set.

In interest of full disclosure, members of Hey Marseilles recently played at a house show I helped throw and at which I performed. Also: I went to high school with one of the members. If you feel that may influence the following, please consider this your salt.

Built on the solid foundation of Matt Bishop’s songsmithery – which isn’t really a word so much, says Google – the band creates lush propulsion that is far less assuming and rowdy than the sheer mass of musicians on stage would have you believe. Seven members strong, Hey Marseilles boasts its own orchestral accompaniment.

Opening with a rush of sound that gives way to a jazz waltz by way of the roaring ’20s, the band’s first number eventually brings every member to the mic for an a cappella chorus. In the midst of all this instrumentation, it might be easy to overlook Bishop’s understated writing hand, but you shouldn’t. Bishop’s lyrics are gorgeous, longform poems with lines that unfold into knowing. All that and a beat.

They did more songs, covering Joy Division and The Magnetic Fields along the way, and while the set didn’t truly crest and was marred by some small snafus, I and the crowd left joyous, happy.

Who needs the sun in a town where the music is this good?

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