The Fens

Circle Bar

June 01, 2005

"Sneaky" Pete Orr should have always gotten as much attention as fellow bitter and grizzled singer-songwriter Alex McMurray. But, then again, McMurray needed a Disneyworld angle for his music's story before he got on the cover of Offbeat.

Honestly, Orr isn't as musically talented as McMurray, but he's more of an entertainer and way funnier. Orr is now the city's poet laureate of dark folk. Thankfully, his silly, irreverent, and self-deprecating humor shines some light on shitty memories, but he doesn't pull any punches. There's no comforting wink. Pete is pissed.

His band, The Fens, has been spewing backwards, vitriol-infested material since 1998. Orr is joined onstage by an upright bassist and a mandolin player. Who knows if it's true, but it's been said The Fens set a record by getting fired the most times from Jimmy Buffett's Margaritaville (for onstage fistfights, for disrespectful renditions of audience requests, and for telling some guy from Ohio, "Yell 'Brick House' once more and I'll brain you with this pint glass").

The band wasn't that mean last night at The Circle Bar, even though the bassist made sure to mention they made a woman cry at their last performance at the bar. So, what's to cry about? Not the music. The Fens were solid on that front, turning out a tight mix of Appalachian bluegrass, folk, and country. Some people call it Americana. One song was a slower number that didn't have a punchline, but most were upbeat ramblers led by the upright bass and colored by mandolin solos. No, even though you'd have to be pretty sensitive, if anyone would have cried, they would have cried about Orr's dim and base outlook on life.

Songs concerned the luck of not catching the eye of an ugly woman and how New Orleans is a hellhole. The Fens'll really make you re-think whether you should ask that girl to move down here with you. They'll make you think you should move up there. The Fens needed "your love and friendship like a hole in the head" and they didn't need "enemies with friends like you."

The icing on the cake was an attack on the drunks at Checkpoint Charlie's.

"Blow all your money but don't blame yourself
Somebody in here might be your friend
Or maybe you could just pretend
Will it make any difference in the end?--"Checkpoints"

Who wants ice cream?


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