Plugs are assorted, meticulously pined over. Guitars are tuned and twined as the audience hums and murmurs. These are the mechanizations of the music industry, the nightly ritual of a band on tour. On Saturday night, the lights dimmed at San Francisco’s The Independent only to return again as Eleanor Friedberger and her band climbed onstage, and with the first strum of Friedberger’s turquoise Fender, so began the show.
“My Mistakes” featured an exuberant, few minute-long instrumental entry, with each band member whipping their heads and guitar stems back and forth, accented by the cinnamon-colored lights. The band transitioned beautifully into “Bother” and “Heaven”, adding a little soul and country into their instruments’ twangs, with the lead guitarist, the young and precocious John Eatherly, emitting a surprisingly heartfelt solo. It became clear as the night went on that though this is “Eleanor Friedberger and her band”, Eatherly is a rising star worth noting at this early point in his career.
During “Roosevelt Island” and “Stare”, Friedberger couldn’t wipe the smirk off her face, and often sent Eatherly proud, knowing glances during his solos. There is a mutual sense amongst the band members that their music is all about growing up, with Eatherly at the tinges of fame, and Friedberger as the loving, doting teacher. The yet unreleased “Boys”, which according to Friedberger is the “newest of the new, or the best of the worst,” was much darker than the teasing folk of Last Summer.
With notes of 80’s New Wave romanticism mixed with modern shoegaze reverb, the song again belonged to Eatherly, whose blank yet attentive stare only added to his astute and articulated strummings. One can tell that Friedberger and Eatherly are two of a kind, with Friedberger’s perfunctory singing style and Eatherly’s effortless guitar gesticulations, and together they made this song the best of the night. “Scenes from Bensonhurst” and “Inn of the Seventh Ray” followed closely as two other standout tracks, each conveying the deeply personal, seemingly therapeutic touches with which Friedberger has lent to her new music.
Her solo project, and indeed her performance in San Francisco, stray definitively from that of her brother Matthew of Fiery Furnaces acclaim. Yet the newfound independence is working, with the innermost urges of Freidberger’s folk goddess at last being allowed to breathe.
Will I Ever Be Happy Again
Glitter Gold Year
Scenes from Bensonhurst
When I Knew
Inn of the Seventh Ray
I Won’t Fall Apart on You Tonight