Handsome Furs + The Model School – Oxford Art Factory (29.8.09)


For Australian fans of Wolf Parade and their many side projects (Frog Eyes, Handsome Furs, Sunset Rubdown etc.), it’s been a hard run over the years, with not a single visit to our shores. Until now. Behold! The first Australian tour of Handsome Furs, Dan Boeckner’s side project with wife Alexei Perry.

But before we could get to them, Sydney’s The Model School had to take care of support business. It’s hard to put a finger on exactly what The Model School’s “sound” is. From alt-country, to folk rock, to melodic indie tunes – there quite the amalgamation of a bit of it all. As such, there are no doubt clashes of music tastes between the five members – a recently updated line-up. And such clashes of both taste and talent showed through like a greased up piece of fish and chips paper.

Their talent as individuals was obvious, but for me they just didn’t work together as a band. When they jumped into a cover of Prince’s “Controversy”, the possibility of splendour peeked through, but when they dealt with original material, it really was all over the place. The songs, lacking basic, recognisable structure, and the lyrics imagination, failed to grab my attention. And their stage presence – well, there wasn’t any. I daresay they looked bored most of the time.

I applaud their approach in trying something a little different, and the harmonica is always a welcome addition to any line-up – but for me it lacked the soul and the passion that’s needed to make these sorts of things work. If they find that soul, maybe they’ve got something, but otherwise they’ll continue to underwhelm.

After an extended interval, Handsome Furs finally arrived to the stage to an enthusiastic and mostly appreciative crowd. They swelled with confidence, energy, and were noticeably thrilled at the turn out. Such was a broad contrast to when I first saw these guys, tucked in the interval of a David Cross variety show in Vancouver, as part of the city’s 2006 comedy festival. It was their first ever show in Vancouver, and only their second or third show ever under the Handsome Furs banner.

Despite years of experience in Atlas Strategic and Wolf Parade, even Dan’s nervousness came through at the 2006 performance – I couldn’t even put my finger on who they were until weeks later, when their gorgeous single “What We Had” first made waves on the interweb. Indeed, chatting with the band after their Sydney show, they distinctly remember the nervousness they felt that night, but as I pointed out, it still didn’t stop them from putting on a good show. So imagine the contrast now, with 3 years of tours and two LPs behind them, their confidence shining through, only amplifying their energy. They know how to perform, that’s for sure – especially Alexei, who seems to use her time on stage as a work out – kicking and jumping her way through every song. And I like it.

And the energy didn’t die off at all throughout their hour-or-so long set, extending into their two song encore, and well after the show ended; the band greeting fans at the merch table – something unheard of in Australia for an international act, however extremely common in their native Canada.

The set itself consisted primarily of tracks off of their latest LP “Face Control”, and while favourites “Radio’s Hot Sun” and “What We Had” weren’t included on the setlist, other tracks such as “I’m Confused” (dedicated to David Carradine: “He Died a Sexy Death”) and the set opener “Legal Tender” easily made up for it. And it goes without saying that it was an absolute thrill to watch Dan ripping out the tracks in such an intimate setting. This man can play guitar, and it was hypnotising to watch his fingers in action. Something I haven’t felt since I last saw Josh Homme at V Festival 2008.

I would have loved to have heard a longer set, and certainly more tracks off of their brilliant debut “Plague Park”, but I was far from disappointed. And their banter really kept the crowd under their spell. I particularly enjoyed their dedication to Wellington, before they launched into “Handsome Furs Hate This City”, one of the few tracks to appear off of “Plague Park” in the 11 song set. I also feel I have to mention the surprising revelation that “Evangeline” was a song about fucking.


All in all, it was a spellbinding, hypnotic set, well worth the wait… a fact that I think surprised quite a few people in attendance.

And now, what’s next for the awesome twosome? Well, from my chat with them after the show, they are having an absolute blast touring, and they’re not planning on stopping any time soon – nor can they let their smiles subside. Let’s just hope such energy crosses over into getting Wolf Parade down under. Sydney Festival have been trying to get them here for years, so this may just be the experience they need to make it so.

However, according to the Wolf Parade Wiki page, Wolf Parade is about to get back into the studio… although with both Handsome Furs and Sunset Rubdown extending throughout the rest of the year, who knows what they’ll get done? We all know how long it took between the first two Wolf Parade albums…


During the set, we uploaded a couple of live reports and pics.
Check them out here!

Sydney // Handsome Furs don’t Hate This City. More Pics & Review on Monday! http://twitpic.com/fqb07
4:36 AM Aug 30th from TweetDeck

Sydney // The Model School on stage now at Oxford Art Factory http://twitpic.com/fouq0
9:19 PM Aug 29th from TweetDeck

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Larry Heath

Founding Editor and Publisher of the AU review. Currently based in Toronto, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter @larry_heath or on Instagram @larryheath.