Inkblots - Con Overview Inkblots
2.0b2.0: Spring 1999

Frucon 99 Overview

by Lisa Schapiro

Hi. My name is Lisa, and I’m a FrüHead.

That’s why I, along with hundreds of other Americans and Canadians, made the trek to Toronto in February to see a band perform for three nights running at Lee’s Palace on Bloor Street, and to meet my fellow fans. The band is Moxy Früvous, and the occasion at the center of the weekend was the Second Annual FrüHead Convention, which took place on Saturday, February 20.

Mention the Fab Four in this crowd and it’s a given that you’re not referring to the standard four cuddly Liverpudlians, but rather to Mike Ford, Murray Foster, Jian Ghomeshi, and Dave Matheson, the four lads from Toronto without whom this conference would not exist. Moxy Früvous has been delighting audiences in live performance since 1991, and has released 5 CDs and one "Indie Tape" since then.

Affectionately called FrüCon ’99, the Frühead convention brought a group of around three hundred fans through the doors of Toronto’s Ramada Inn to spend a day with one another, socializing, singing Früvous songs, admiring Früvous-related art, and participating in Q&A’s with VIPs including the representatives from the band’s management and record label. The day’s festivities culminated with an appearance from Moxy Früvous themselves, who drew tickets in a raffle of hard-to-find Moxy-related items, the proceeds of which will be used for next year’s convention.

Bandmember Dave Matheson told me Sunday night that in his mind the essence of FrüCon is "people with a common interest coming together to meet each other and share some vague enthusiasm..." and if this year’s turnout was any indication of growing enthusiasm for the band, they might just require a bigger conference space for next year’s FrüCon.

While last year’s convention was a smaller gathering of fans who knew each other from concerts and the Internet (theüvous newsgroup, an IRC channel, and a web site that is known as the comprehensive Früvous resource, www.frü, this year’s convention was attended by people who didn’t necessarily know one another to begin with. Colleen Campbell of Boston, MA, one of the coordinators of FrüCon ’99, elaborates. "Last year it was more of an intimate gathering of friends who wanted to get together. This year it was people who were familiar with the band."

The turnout this year was such a surprise, according to Chris O’Malley, a fan who manages www.frü and held a large part in the coordination of FrüCon ‘99, that after the preregistration numbers were in, the band chose to reschedule its concerts for the weekend, moving them to a larger venue.

So, what does the band think of this immense outpouring of fan love? Although they appreciate it, that doesn’t stop the band from being a little bit unnerved by all of the attention. Murray Foster, in his remarks to the crowd assembled at FrüCon, said "I’ve never been so nervous as I am today."

Jian Ghomeshi, who also thanked the fans for their enthusiasm, wondered aloud why a group of sane people would follow a band to concerts around the United States, and to a lesser extent, Canada, and congregate at a Ramada in Toronto in the band’s honor. "It certainly has a bit of a crazy element to it," he said with a smile.

Ghomeshi concluded, though, that at the heart of the Früvous following is, of course, the band’s music. Unfortunately for the FrüHeads who try to describe the Früvous experience to disbelieving family, friends, co-workers and therapists, the Früvous experience defies formal classification (the pat FrüHead response to an attempt to classify the band is, in fact, "just go see them -- you won’t be disappointed"). But, since this is an article about FrüCon, let me try to give you an idea of the appeal of this well-loved band which enjoys the advantage of its grass-rootsy, fan-driven popularity.

Since their early days busking on Toronto’s chilly streets, Früvous has won fans over by providing not just music, but a real experience. This experience is born of many things, including Moxy Früvous’ masterful integration of amazing harmonies in their folk- and alternative-style music, combined with their use of both a capella and innovative instrumental techniques, their intelligent and sometimes moving lyrics, their opinionated liberal politics, and the huge dose of wacky, ad-libbed humor they bring to all of their live performance and to some of their recorded songs. Additionally, bandmembers write the songs, sing the harmonies, play the instruments, and take turns at the lead singer position, lending their songs and concerts a rounded sound and a refreshing sense of equality. And finally, at any given point, one of the members of the band (probably Mike Ford) will be literally jumping around the stage, which always adds to the fun, of course.

Aside from all of this: the music, the laughs, and the social environment of the concerts, at the heart of it all, of course, are the four extremely talented guys who seem to love what they are doing, and respect their fans enough to talk with them and speak at their convention. And of course, their audience respects them back, which is why they travel for miles, give the band gifts at their birthdays, create Früvous art, and do everything they can to spread the word about the band to friends, radio stations, and other prospective venues. One of the highlights of Moxy Früvous’ attendance at the ‘Con came at the end, as Moxy Früvous watched with glee while two pint-sized convention attendees gave their rousing rendition of one of Früvous’ funnier songs, "I Love My Boss."

All in all, Murray Foster repeated on Sunday night his testament of gratitude for the fans’ dedication and for the FrüCon itself. "I always find it overwhelming to be the center of so much attention," he told me at the close of Sunday’s Früvous and Friends for Choice concert, "but I love the spirit of the FrüCon and I think it’s a great thing. In a world that has less and less community, it’s a group of people connecting with each other in a meaningful way as the world gets more and more impersonal." (As evidenced by the evil grin on his face as he spoke, Murray was apparently struggling to make that quote as long as possible so that I’d have to write really fast).

First-time Früvous concert-goer Eric Jackson, of Queensbury, NY, sat alone on a train for 9 hours each way to be part of the experience. Was it worth the trip? "It was great." he said. "I didn’t know anyone [from the newsgroup] before last night. It was great to put some faces with everyone’s names."

The concerts themselves were packed with FrüHeads, who blew bubbles at the stage, jumped up and down (in typical FrüHead fashion), played with noisy toys, and just generally made their presence felt in the room. Susan Werner, one of the opening performers (and on Sunday, one of the "Friends" who performed in the Früvous and Friends for Choice show), remarked to the packed house on Saturday night, "you are the strangest audience in the entire world." This, of course, yielded mad whoops and laughter from the crowd.

Früvous played with their usual energy, performed a few rousing ad-libbed numbers, including a funny riff on the musician Sting and a "Way to go!" sequence in which they improvised a song to praise each of the bandmembers at the urging of the audience. They also played a number of new songs, including "Independence Day," and "You Can’t Be Too Careful," which will hopefully appear on their new album. Now, Früvous is off to the recording studios to record said album, due out in late June or early July.

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