Concert review: The Fresh & Onlys rock short and sweet at the Firebird, Friday, November 2

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My favorite thing to do when I get to a show early is people watch, and, with three openers before the Fresh & Onlys took the stage at the Firebird on Friday night, I had a lot of time to survey the crowd.

The turnout was small so I could get a good look at almost everyone: the guy with the fedora, plaid shirt and denim jacket; the girl with bangs and pigtails; the probably six-foot-four giant in a raincoat.

After opening sets by Admirals, Troubadour Dali and Swayback, the Fresh & Onlys took the stage. Plaid shirt and denim jacket guy was on bass, pigtail girl played keyboard and the giant was drumming. That’s show intimacy at it’s finest. The person who held the restroom door open for me during a set break took the stage an hour later.

Throughout the night, I kept seeing members of the four bands on the bill wandering throughout the venue and working the merch table. During Troubadour Dali’s set, I may have even been standing next to one of the band member’s parents. If not, they were just two incredibly cool 60-somethings who liked rocked music and rum and cokes and hugged the whole band after the set.

At around 11:15 p.m., the Fresh & Onlys took the stage with guitarist Wymond Miles humming what sounded like “Surfin’ Bird” to test his microphone. The band opened with “Secret Walls,” and “20 Days and 20 Nights” before introducing itself. Frontman Tim Cohen asked the crowd to form the shape of an arch, because they “came from San Francisco [and] didn’t get to see the Arch.” A few people shuffled around, but the crowd of about 100 mostly just laughed.

“Waterfall” came about 15 minutes into the set. It sounded straight from the album, a testament to the band’s musical skill but also the authenticity and rawness of the recorded version. “Waterfall” and “Secret Walls” were some of the only songs played that are not on the bands’ newest release, “Long Slow Dance,” or “LSD” as Cohen said we should call it.

“No Regard” was dreamy and emotional. Cohen’s leg did a little twitch as he sang, and he really seemed to feel the lyrics of the song.

“Presence of Mind” and “Yes or No,” both of which came near the end of the set, sounded more rhythmic than some Fresh & Onlys music and got even the bearded men in leather jackets dancing, a fun sight to watch. The show, even though it included almost 15 songs, seemed short, probably because almost all of the songs played lasted less than three minutes. Although I would have liked a longer show, the short songs came off incredibly well live — brevity kept the pace of the set moving.

When the show came to an end, the audience cheered, the band said its thank you’s, and then left the stage to return to wandering about the crowd and standing by the merch table.

It was as if nothing had happened, as if they hadn’t just played an hour of spectacular music.

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