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From the Fruvous Quill: 4-part political irreverence

by Chris Crone

The 4-part irreverent harmony of the quasi-a capella Canadian street buskers invades Chicago tonight when Moxy Fruvous plays at Martyr's. It's intellectual and musical fun from north of the border, from true sons of the land of hockey and donut shops. From pointed jabs at Canadian and US politicos (their Canuck patter is a delight), to a great improv rap version of Dr. Seuss' Green Eggs & Ham, they manage to bring even the most ardent opponent to their a capella knees.

For lack of a better place, let's start at the beginning...

Says the band: "We met, the four of us, on a school trip to a pig-calling contest in Flesherton, Ontario. Although none of us won, we split the 'Most Promising Pig-Caller' award and met for the first time on the podium. Incidentally, the two pigs used in the contest were 'Moxy' and 'Fruvous.'"

The entymological debate over the name is, however, significant and long-standing (the Fruvi -- plural of Fruvous -- are noted liars). One faction devoutly maintains that Fruvous is a magical monk-baked pastry loaf that was served to evil burgermeisters in the Middle Ages. Other historians of the language believe that Fruvous was a high-stakes Mesopotamian board game, the rules of which have faded into obscurity. Another interviewer personally accepts the theory that "Fruvous" is the sound produced when yogurt dollops are dropped in searing liquid.

Other connotations include the slightly corrupted "fru-vest," which, as the name suggests, is an article of clothing; a mysterious light similar to St. Elmo's Fire; and a species of small dog with a bird's beak and a reddish coat. The Oxford English dictionary, usually the court of final appeals in such matters, was apparently so bewildered by this controversy, that it inadvertently left the word out.

During the summer of 1990, Moxy Fruvous began busking on street-corners near Toronto landmarks and theatres. "Friday nights outside the Bloor Cinema, that was sort of our regular gig" explained group member Murray Foster. "Three complete sets every Friday night."

1990 a CBC radio executive spotted the band on the street and hauled them in to perform on the local drive-home show, "Later The Same Day." During this performance the CBC brass noticed Fruvous' penchant for political satire and commissioned them to write something like two dozen satirical songs on topics ranging from gambling in Ontario to the LA riot. The touching "Gulf War Song" ("We'd rather play hockey, have kids, and grow old...") comes from these days.

They began performing indoors in 1991, and by early 1992, with the release of their eponymous six-song cassette, they were opening for the likes of Bryan Adams and Bob Dylan. Says the band, "a commotion in the Canadian music industry to a degree unheard of since the Martian Conflux of 4,000,000 BC." By the end of the tour, the cassette (sold mostly off the side of the stage) had gone gold in Canada alone. The cheeky crew even launched a "Petting Zoo TV Tour '92 (One Night Only)", sideswiping Bono and his U2 concert series.

In 1993, They recorded Bargainville, which was released in the states on Atlantic Records, their major label debut, and the 16-song album -- filled with tunes like "My Baby Loves a Bunch of Authors," "King of Spain," and the endearing "Drinking Song" soon went platinum. In "My Baby," a young man complains about his girlfriend who only wants to get between the covers of a novel. "King of Spain" follows a dethroned European monarch who now drives a Skydome zamboni.

Their 1995 recording, Wood, is a more serious creature. It's not available commercially in the US (Fruvous decided to dump their American distributor) outside of Fruvous shows, though.

A 1996 EP, Entitled The B-Album, again captures the satirical humor of Moxy Fruvous. "Greatest Man in America" lampoons media puritan Rush Limbaugh.

In concert, their irreverence extends even to covering (simultaneously) ABBA's Dancing Queen & Lou Reeds "Walk on the Wild Side," the "Star Trek" and "WKRP" theme songs, and the random Tom Waits. But they've also played just about everywhere stateside, as well as a tour of Britian and Denmark.

If'n you're intrigued, you'll probably want to visit the official Fruvous Pages, which contains a comprehensive discography (with lyrics, etc.), a photo gallery, a motley collection of lies about the band (and the band's lies about itself -- articles, reviews, and links to more cyberfruv.

Moxy Fruvous plays at Martyr's, 3855 N. Lincoln Friday, September 20. The opening band, Big Rude Jake, starts around 10.

Vocals, Guitar, Percussion: Mike Ford
Vocals, Bass, Guitar: Murray Foster
Vocals, Drums: Jean Ghomeshi
Vocals, Guitar, Bass, Accordion: David Matheson

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