Oh sure, Frightened Rabbit sold out The Black Cat, but the fact that this band from Selkirk, Scotland isn’t one of the biggest bands in the world right now and others who ape their sound ARE may be one of the biggest crimes, culturally speaking, of the past five years.
The band formed in 2006 around brothers Scott and Grant Hutchinson. Their debut album Sing The Greys received moderate praise from critics, but it wasn’t until the emotional, a-bomb sized gut punch of 2007’s The Midnight Organ Fight, that the now five piecegroup’s raw, powerful indie-rock saw the success that it so very much deserved. The product of an absolutely excruciating break up that frontman Scott Hutchinson had recently been through (if the songs that make it up are to believed),, Organ Fight demonstrated with a powerful grace that sometimes it really is best to simply say what you feel. That willingness to simply put it all out there not just lyrically, but performance wise as well, not only earned Frightened Rabbit a reputation as a band to look out for, but turned Hutchinson into sex symbol and consummate frontman almost overnight.
Touring in support of their recently released EP State Hospital, you might think that five years after the fact, Hutchinson is over all of the pain. And while that might partially be the case, if anything their performance demonstrated that not only is there always more pain to go around, but there’s a whole lot of joy too. Imploring the crowd to drink between practically every song, Hutchinson and his thick Scottish accent treated the crowd as if they were all good friends hanging out in his flat. Maybe you had been there for him before, or maybe you were a new friend that he met along the way to getting back to something normal, but everyone in attendance left at least feeling like they were all connected, all there to support Hutchinson and each other.
Songs like “Twist,” “Backwards Walk” and “Old Fashioned,” before which Hutchinson told the crowd that it was “time to make babies,” have become rallying cries for anyone that has every suffered a broken heart, and part of the reason people come to see Frightened Rabbit is the catharsis that they can provide. We’ve all lived through heartbreak, and while nobody in their right mind would want to revisit that state, sometimes it feels good to celebrate that you survived the pain, survived the confusion and made it through to shout at the top of your lungs “I need human heat,” or “It takes more than fucking someone to keep yourself warm.” along with a couple hundred others to deeply moving and deeply human effect.
That last chorus closed out the evening during a second encore that roared out of nowhere taking band members and audience alike by surprise. As the lights came up and people began to file out, the faithful stayed by stage to handle the scream portion of “The Scream and The Loneliness” off of 2010’s The Winter Of Mixed Drinks. Shouting “Whoa- oh – oh –oh OHHHH” until people who had previously made their way to the exit returned to join in, the lights went back down and the band returned to the stage with Hutchinson remarking “You guys are fucking insane,” driving the now frenzied crowd even more wild. And it was really the only way the show could have ended, with everyone unwilling to let go, even though they know that they must.
And that’s why it’s such a damn shame that Frightened Rabbit aren’t exponentially bigger than they are today. Lots of bands make emotive music. Anthemic music. POWERFUL music. But very few do it with as much ferocity and honesty as Frightened Rabbit do. There’s not a second that Scott Hutchinson is on stage that you don’t believe that he’s been there, he’s lived the pain he’s telling you about now, and that, more importantly, he knows that you have too. That connection to the audience goes beyond star power, sex appeal or 600,000 copies of your record sold in the first week. That stuff is great and all, but eventually you’re just being spoon fed emotions from some giant, heartless machine, instead of what you really need and expect in your music: HEART. Even though it might be slightly bruised and bandaged, Frightened Rabbit bring a giant beating heart to everything they do, and one thing you can be sure of is that if they keep bringing the type of performance that they brought to The Black Cat then it won’t be too long before this band takes over the world.
Until that day though, Scott Hutchinson and crew will just have to be content doing it one broken heart at a time.