Ezra Furman, of rip-rollicking, folk-punk band Ezra Furman and the Harpoons, played an acoustic solo set in Jones Residential College’s Great Room on Thursday night. The show was opened by Northwestern students Kara Ali and the Main Men, and was held as a fundraiser for Dance Marathon.
Ali, who possesses an enchanting voice, started off the show with a few mellow, soulful songs. She was followed by the Main Men, composed of seniors Bryant Millet and Zack Levine, and juniors Mike Johnson and Chris Kim, who performed an energetic set filled with rousing riffs and fantastic keyboards.
“The energy in the crowd was high,” frontman Mike Johnson said. “It was pretty easy to feed off of it.”
It was refreshing to see a performance infused with such a playful vibe reminiscent of Guster with a touch of Thrice, making for a set to bob your head along to.
Furman is adorable with his shaggy mop of curls and scuffed Converse, tugging at your heartstrings with his magnetic mixture of bashfulness and boyish charm. Almost every song was introduced by an endearing anecdote filled with references to ’80s pop culture and a keen sense of humor laced with self-deprecation.
But beneath his goofy exterior is a wistful romantic — it’s easy to picture a boy listening to 8-tracks in his bedroom with the lights turned off, and, as he said, just “letting little dreamy songs come slipping out.” And these songs are stories of young love, that universal experience most listeners can relate to.
It’s what helped his hour-long set of fourteen songs feel like mere minutes, and had girls mouthing along to songs they didn’t even know. He’s completely captivating, possessing that kind of stage presence where you feel like he’s singing just for you and only you. Though considering the size of the Great Room, that’s not exactly a great feat.
His sound is a blend of angry punk and flowery folk, almost as if Jeff Mangum were singing early Bob Dylan injected with a healthy dose of the Sex Pistols. “Take Off Your Sunglasses,” is a prime example of this, featuring catchy harmonica interludes and a sarcastic sensibility.
Undoubtedly though, the song that stole the show was “Wild Rosemarie,” a gorgeous ballad wrought with emotion and captivating imagery. His warbly voice, dripping with romantic, angst-ridden pining, could make even Conor Oberst jealous, because while laden with feeling, it’s not overwhelming or suffocating. Furman knows how to combine wild lyricism with a sense of barely-staunched pain and pure, unadulterated passion to create music you can choose to either slam or shoe-gaze to. He may be physically distant, but his performance is engaging enough that even the most hardened individuals might find themselves drawn to his songs about fluffy clouds and lofty dreams.