It’s a rare thing to witness a band develop as quickly as Family and Friends. Having only been a full band for little over a year, Mike MacDonald and his ever-growing cast of characters are rightfully generating a good deal of buzz in town for their energetic live shows. Although I expect the band to do much more developing, its EP release show at the Georgia Theatre Thursday was a testament to how much it has grown and, hopefully, the vast potential it has to tap into for the future.
Naturally, most of Family and Friends’ set derived from its recently released EP, Love You, Mean It, a strong collection of dynamic folky tunes that are a hell of a lot more sophisticated than anything Mumford & Sons have offered over the past few years. Although F&F’s tunes are not quite as accessible, they’re certainly expansive, which made the Theatre a perfect place to celebrate their release. Many acoustic bands might have difficulty enticing an audience to let loose, but the dynamic nature of the band’s songs also lend themselves to crowd participation.
At their core, MacDonald’s songs are pop-rock tunes disguised as something else entirely. That’s hardly a criticism of the band. It takes more than a little compositional sleight of hand to make a room full of college-aged concert-goers pay attention to a 45-minute set of songs, but F&F’s arrangements are so damn crafty it would be difficult not to follow closely along.
The band’s moments of showpersonship are also noteworthy. It doesn’t hurt that bassist David “Tuna” Fortuna likes to turn his instrument upside down to get the crowd going—it might be ostentatious, but it’s also celebratory and fun. But it’s noise and breakneck rhythm where the band truly succeeds. Having two percussionists provides a kind of nuance that most other folk acts cannot compete with. If you’re privy to those moments of chaos that occur when Wilco does “Via Chicago” live, Family and Friends is apt to strike a nerve.
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