Posted by: hankwillenbrink | July 23, 2009

REVIEW: Handsome Furs @ Skull Alley – 7/16

O Canada indeed.  The funny thing about our northern neighbors is that unlike bands down here, they’re perfectly happy with mates breaking out and joining their wives for electro-ish side projects.  Hence Handsome Furs traveling to Louisville last week.  If you don’t know already, the Furs are husband/wife duo Dan Boeckner (see also Wolf Parade and Atlas Stragtegic) and Alexei Perry.  Not only was it the duo’s first trip to Louisville, it was also the first show at Skull Alley put on by our other buddies over at Production Simple.  So, your average night at Louisville’s best all ages venue, it was not.  We’ve gone on several times here about how great Skull Alley is, and I have to continue to say, that it is the best venue in Louisville.  Without Skull Alley, the Handsome Furs may have been trotted out to the cavernous, bar feeding frenzy that is Headliners, ruining the intimate broke-down atmosphere that their electro-punk thrives on.  The pairing of Skull Alley and Production Simple, in this case, was a wonderful one and one that I hope continues.

Now, for my caveats:

1.  I’m always a little hesitant about husband/wife duos, mostly because it always feels a little too lovey on stage.  I don’t have any problems with people being in love, it’s just not necessarily what I want to see when I go to a show.  So, there was a bit of the cutesy smiles tossed around, but these were outweighed by the headbutts and shoving doled out by both Dan and Alexei.

2.  I’m not a big fan of the Handsome Furs.

Not being a fan at a show always puts you in a different position.  For starters, you don’t know the lyrics.  Secondly, you’re not waiting for “your song” to be played.  If you’re not a fan of a band that you see live, then, you’re looking for something different.  The best way I can describe it is that you’re looking to be converted into a fan or at least brought into the fold with the people who mouth the lyrics and wait for their favorite song to be played.

I was brought into the fold, but I wasn’t fully converted.

Here’s why.  For all the bluster of the music, the songs weren’t always exciting.  The last three were my personal favorites but the grouping before then were overwrought punk-dance duds that seemed to drone and bang without ever going past droning and banging.  The setup was pretty simple — Dan on guitar and vocals, Alexei on drum machine, synth, and partying.  Alexei’s flurry of arm movements and insane jumping were entertaining as all hell and passed into the audience’s fervor, but it still seemed to be flapping wings for no real reason.  Yes, the energy was electric, but the substance was wanting.  Substance is probably the wrong word here.  I don’t mean to imply that there wasn’t substance to the music but there wasn’t enough to keep me interested.  For fans (and those who had enough PBRs to turn their feet into dancing shoes) the beats and hammering were more than enough.  And, honestly, there’s a lot to like about this band and this band in this context.  Dan’s obviously an amazing musician and Alexei (though what she was doing was hidden behind knobs and keys) has a fantastic connection to the music.  But, in the end the whole thing didn’t add up for me.  Maybe it was the songwriting, maybe my semi-unfamiliarity with the tunes, maybe my taste made it this way.  But I’m sure I wasn’t the only one.  I wanted desperately to get converted, to have this show succeed.  However, all I could muster to the other Sandbarbarians was a lackadaisical “it was alright.”

Of course you have to go past what one person feels about something to judge whether or not a show succeeds.  Those of us who have or write for blogs are in the (un)fortunate position of seeing a lot of things.  And, sometimes we try to drum them up or to turn you onto what we like or refute what everyone else says is cool.  Beyond my critique or my non-comprehension of the Handsome Furs show, look at it like this:  a lot of people had fun and we’ve finally got two of the best organizations in town working together in a positive way to bring some great music to the city.

So what if I wasn’t totally into the show.  Maybe next time it’ll happen.

More pics below the break…



  1. I thought it was a great show, and really liked Skull Alley. I had never been there before, but had been to other all ages venues that were kind of gross and run down. It’s kind of like a coffee shop or a art gallery more than Tek World or something. And I was happy to see that they have better beer than PBR.

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