Live + Photos: Friends @ Oxford Art Factory (7/25/12)

So after seeing the majority of The Shins set, I hopped in a cab back to the Oxford Art Factory to catch the Brooklyn-based Friends (I missed Zulu Winter and Howler). As we speak, Splendour In The Grass is going on – basically the Australian Coachella up in Byron Bay. Because so many bands travel so far for this festival, they do these sideshows throughout Oz the weeks before and after, which is why this was such an incredible week for music here. Anyway.

Relying solely on their debut (and only) album, Manifest!, the Brooklynites totally rocked their 45-minute set. About four songs in, super congested lead singer Samantha Urbani explained that she had a terrible cold, which only got worse on the flight over from the States. Talking to us, Samantha sounded so sick, that you’d wonder why she was singing in front of a packed crowd instead of lying in bed with some hot tea and chicken soup. Even so, she sounded spot-on throughout the show and wowed the crowd with her unique blend of r&b-tinged rock vocals. No one’s ever made being sick sound this good.

This was the band’s third sideshow down under, also marking their third show as a four-piece, as guitarist/keyboardist Matthew Molnar quit the band right before they headed to Australia, leaving very little time to reconfigure and rehearse. Even with yet another strike against them, the band gave the packed crowd a superb, tight performance. I don’t think anyone even realized that there used to be a fifth member.

These guys just blew me away, even with the odds against them, as their unique blend of indie pop, electronic, and r&b translated very well in a live setting. Singles “Friend Crush” and “I’m His Girl” were definitely notable, as the latter had the crowd singing “when you see me walking around with him I’m not just another chick I’m… his… girl!” These guys killed it, and I look forward to hearing more from them in the near future!

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