Fanfarlo at the Bowery Ballroom, New York, NY, September 21, 2009 | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Fanfarlo at The Bowery Ballroom


Fanfarlo at the Bowery Ballroom, New York, NY, September 22nd, 2009

Oct 06, 2009 Photography by Laura Leebove Web Exclusive
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On “I’m A Pilot,” the opening track from Fanfarlo’s glorious debut LP Reservoir (Atlantic), frontman Simon Balthazar croons, “If I stay in this room, they’ll remember me for my youth.” The waltz as a whole is about the famed aviator Howard Hughes, who slowly went insane and shut himself in a film-screening room for four months, then disappeared from the public eye. But taken slightly out of context, “I’m A Pilot” very much defines the London-based orchestral pop outfit, who graciously and effortlessly charmed the crowd at a packed Bowery Ballroom on Sept. 21.

The stage was set for a carnival: Triangular flags hung overhead and strings of white lights were draped in the background. Combined with the band’s fanfare of majestic horn blasts, glockenspiel hits, and sing-along choruses, the backdrop was a perfect fit. Balthazar and multi-instrumentalist Cathy Lucas took most of the vocal duties, but everyone chimed in at one point or another.

Throughout the modest 12-song set (that’s including two encores—an ambitious feat for a band with only one LP and a few singles), the group played nearly all of Reservoir. Among the standouts were the “The Walls Are Coming Down,” which began with the chorus done a cappella, and “Luna,” the quickest-moving piece of the night. In the second encore, the band busted out “You Are One of the Few Outsiders Who Really Understands Us” from Fanfarlo’s 2007 7-inch on Label Fandango. Hardly any of the six members stayed loyal to one instrument as they traded after nearly every number: guitar for mandolin, mandolin for violin, glockenspiel for horn. Beirut’s Jon Natchez also added accordion and soprano sax to a couple of tracks.

It’s impossible to avoid comparisons to the likes of Beirut (“The Walls Are Coming Down”), Arcade Fire (“Luna,” “Drowning Men”), and Noah and the Whale (“Harold T. Wilkins, Or How to Wait for a Very Long Time”), but Fanfarlo’s sunny sound and matching attitude—along with charmingly bookish looks and lyrics—still come across as a breath of fresh air. Just as much as the Bowery crowd will remember Fanfarlo’s music, they’ll remember the way the group glowed with pure youthful giddiness after acing their first proper New York show.


1. Drowning Men

2. I’m a Pilot

3. Finish Line

4. Harold T. Wilkins, Or How to Wait for a Very Long Time

5. Atlas

6. The Walls are Coming Down

7. New song

8. Comets

9. Luna

Encore 1

1. Ghosts

2. Fire Escape

Encore 2

You Are One of the Few Outsiders Who Really Understands Us


Author rating: 8/10


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