Marfa Dialogues

Eleanor Friedberger

with Josh Wise

24 March 2012


Eleanor Friedberger
with Josh Wise of the French Kicks
24 March 2012
Crowley Theater, Marfa, TX
Doors at 8 pm; show at 8:30 pm
Tickets $5

Please note: The concert will take place in the front of the Crowley Theater, and there will be no seating.


Ballroom Marfa welcomes singer-songwriter Eleanor Friedberger for a weeklong residency and recording session, culminating in a special performance on March 24, 2012 at the Crowley Theater in Marfa, Texas. Josh Wise of the indie band The French Kicks opens.

Eleanor Friedberger has been making music with her brother Matthew as The Fiery Furnaces since 2000. With the Furnaces, Eleanor details magical realist scenarios over her brother’s madcap prog-rock arrangements: A quick survey of their seven-album discography reveals songs about pirates, candy makers, and the Vietnamese Telephone Ministry. With Last Summer, her 2011 solo release, she turns her eye to less exotic, but no less engaging, material. In what she described in one interview as a “love letter to New York,” she ventures into autobiographical territory, slipping into a laid-back, singer-songwriter mode.

With the first lines of the album Eleanor tells us that she does her best thinking when she’s riding her bike downhill and it rings true: Her words flow in an easy stream-of-consciousness that starts and stops with the natural cadence of someone who’s lost her breath in the excitement of sharing a thought that just popped into her head.

Her stories are simple ones: The wonder of travel by subway. Waiting to score drugs on a “designated bench.” Buying stolen bike parts on Coney Island. All laid out over arrangements that range from straightforward piano ballads to complex pop matrices of guitars, synthesizers, saxophones and whistles, inviting comparisons to artists like Joni Mitchell and Harry Nilsson as well as Todd Rundgren and Sparks.

These are snapshots that quickly pull the listener in, suggesting that you might’ve been there too. Photographs pop up in the songs as well, single images that trigger a flood of back-story, or as she puts it in “Owl’s Head Park,”

I only took one picture that day
It’s me on the bike posing next to a white Lamborghini on Manhattan Avenue
In front of that tiny, tiny restaurant
Where we had dinner and watched TV

The song feels like a meditation on two people trying — and failing — to connect, though it’s also just a story about getting lost in the city, its melancholy checked by the wonder of discovery.

Taken all together, this mass of otherwise mundane observations becomes a graphic illustration of a particular time and place. With this panorama Eleanor allows us to feel nostalgia for memories that are not ours, enables us in fabricating recollections of exploring a new city on bicycles, wondering whatever happened to that other guy in the photo, or if we could still find our way back to that tiny, tiny restaurant with the TV in the corner.

Eleanor will be spending a week in Marfa before her performance, where she will record a limited edition 7” with Gory Smelley of Marfa Recording Company. Please join us at the Crowley Theater to hear more of these songs in person.

J. Wise, of the indie rock band The French Kicks, will open the show. Wise writes songs in an experimental folk vein, where melodic singing and processed fingerstyle guitar are joined with ambient sounds and percussion in what one reviewer called “circadian rhythm music.” Doors at 8 pm; show at 8:30 pm. Listen to the Talk at Ten interview with Eleanor Friedberger on Friday, 23 March 2012, at 10:30 am. Listen on KRTS Marfa Public Radio 93.5FM or streaming live on www.marfapublicradio.org.

    Listen to Marfa Public Radio’s Talk at Ten interview with Eleanor Friedberger.

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    [vimeo 39378187]

    Read an interview with Eleanor where she discusses her Marfa residency in the Austinist.

    Special thanks to The Big Bend Sentinel, Joe & Ross Cashiola, Dan Chamberlin, Lee Cohen, Rob Crowley, Tim Crowley and Jennifer Bell of the Crowley Theater, Chris Hillen, Marfa Public Radio, Marfa Recording Company, Merge Records, Colt Miller, Luke Bulman & Jessica Young of Thumb Projects and Lance Webb.