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Lackluster Set Douses Hype Fueling Jonathan Fire Eater

Possibly the most hyped young group that nobody has ever heard of, Jonathan Fire Eater is a dark, strange and unconventional quintet from New York City by way of Washington, D.C. On Thursday, the band brought its Farfisa-organ-powered, Stones-meets-Velvet Underground sound to the Troubadour, playing songs from its debut album, “Wolf Songs for Lambs.”

Unfortunately, the outfit never generated enough art or energy onstage to meet its buzz or explain the reasons behind the bidding war that spawned a very generous record deal with DreamWorks.

Singer Stewart Lupton--a sometime-model who, at 22, has already been in and out of rehab for heroin addiction--does make an interesting centerpiece for the band with his Jagger-esque stage presence and droll, jaded yet poetic lyrics about love, decay and rebirth.

Lupton took the stage long after a promising set by the Martinis, a local band that features former That Dog bassist Rachel Haden and ex-Pixies guitarist Joey Santiago. By the time that group finished, most of the audience had dispersed for the night.

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The lack of a big, enthusiastic crowd sapped the set of its energy as Jonathan Fire Eater delved into reverb-drenched songs that rode on the lounge-lizard carnival sound of the organ and wound up smacking of a ‘60s British rock band gone garage punk in ‘70s Greenwich Village.

Shunning any kind of traditional pop-rock song structure, though, the group rarely gained any momentum during this disappointing show. In the end, Jonathan Fire Eater clinched its role as the band with the loudest buzz but little real-life bang.


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