Sunday, November 18, 2007

Concert Review: Francis Dunnery

The first time I heard the name “Francis Dunnery” was out of my friend Paul’s mouth about a week before the concert. “You’ve GOT to come see this guy,” Paul said. “He’s amazing!” I tried to find out what he was like, but couldn’t get a straight answer. “Just come to the show,” Paul insisted. He explained to me a lot about Francis himself, but nothing about his music, citing in particular the fact that he doesn’t just play really small venues – he also does “house shows.” Basically, he will come to your house, and all you have to do is pay him a certain amount of money. So you take however much money he wants, and divide it however you desire, and then…well…you fill your house with fans, so to speak. You sell a couch cushion as a ticket. Or, if you have the money, you can just have him come and play for you (which I imagine would be sort of expensive, and also a little creepy). Intrigued by what I had heard, I decided to check him out for myself. So on Saturday, November 3rd, I headed to the Tin Angel with my friends to see this amazing man in action.

I had no idea what to expect when Dunnery himself walked out onto the stage. He had a microphone and a guitar, and his set list was a CD on the floor, from which he played all the songs in order (with a few others in between them). He introduced himself, and then announced that since he had just played at the Tin Angel not long ago, and since it was their 15th anniversary, he was going to do something special, and play his album “Tall Blonde Helicopter,” a twelve-year-old album he didn’t get to play often. He opened with a song called “48 Hours,” and I acknowledged at that moment that my friends were right: he is amazing. His music is along the lines of the current folksy trend (think The Mountain Goats or Great Lake Swimmers) but with more optimistic lyrics, and, especially the songs he played from this particular album, many interesting guitar riffs and a lot of exhaustive finger picking.

Not only is Dunnery unique and talented musically, he is also absolutely hilarious. The stories he told in between each song had the crowd roaring. In a loving and affectionate way, he explained the significance of each song before he played it – and many times, he asked the crowd, a loyal group of devoted fans, to sing along with him. My favorite part was when he told the story about the emails he receives from fans. He said how most people receive emails that say, “Hey! We loved your album! We can’t stop playing it! Please come back and play in Denmark again!” But the emails he received have subject lines that say things like, “WE HAVE TWO LLAMAS.” These people explained that they have two llamas, and they were having a baby, and the baby was conceived to his music, and they wanted Dunnery to come and play so the baby could be born to his music as well. The crowd was roaring with laughter – although, Paul admitted to me later, that was a regular story he told often. Dunnery exclaimed that he wasn’t some kind of llama entertainer, and proceeded to tell us about another email he received when he was in New England – a man emailed him and said that the next day, he would be in Central Park, at the third fountain, and at 4pm, he would get down on one knee to his girlfriend, who would also be there, and he was going to propose to her, and he wanted Dunnery to jump out of the bushes. “I was so sick of these emails that I decided I was going to go down there and do it, so I went down there and he was at the third fountain and at 4pm he got down on one knee to propose to her and I jumped out of the bushes and he screamed!”

The mix of great music and hilarious, oftentimes touching stories, definitely made me fall in love with Francis Dunnery that night. I absolutely recommend him to everyone. Keep an eye out for him at local small places, especially the Tin Angel, or possibly a living room near you.

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