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OUT: Freezepop 10th-anniversary show at Harpers Ferry



They're only on their second song -- "Stakeout" -- but Freezepop are already deep into a three-keytar freakout up on the Harpers Ferry stage. After doing some synchronized synth-axe-swinging with mysterious guest player Michael Diamonds, Sean T. Drinkwater wanders over to lead singer Liz Enthusiasm (a/k/a Justinne Gamache) and prods her ass with the neck of his Roland AX-7. (She is unfazed.) Next to her, the Duke of Candied Apples (who goes by many names) busts out a sweetly spergy little foot-stomp move while singing vocoded back-up harmony.

This is an especially big night for Freezepop -- they're celebrating their 10th anniversary, and they're also losing a member. The Duke is giving up his duchy.

In June, the Duke broke the bad news: "Almost exactly 10 years ago I cold-called Liz out of the blue to see if she might want to start a fun blippy synthpop band with me ... [as] kind of a silly lark." One decade and three full-length Freezepop albums (plus a handful of Rock Band/Guitar Hero cameo appearances) later, the Duke's quitting the band to focus on his Harmonix career and other projects.

As birthdays go, it's kind of a bummer. But you wouldn't know it from the happy gaggle of fans crushed up against the stage (who include a girl wearing a skirt with piano-key pleats, a yellow fanny pack, and bright pink tights with matching Minnie Mouse-style hairbow).

And they are eating up the off-the-rails theatrics on display tonight. The Duke produces a bundle of authentic horrible '80s duds from defunct chain Chess King for the band to wear while performing (yes) "Chess King"; Liz does a spectacularly off-key rendition of "Happy Birthday"; Nice Pete, a "guitar-smashing intern," wrecks a guitar for "Get Ready 2 Rokk"; the Duke sings into a plastic shark toy for "Shark Attack." But despite these gimmicky flourishes, and even though the band showers us with aural confetti that spans their entire career, the show doesn't quite feel like the send-off I was expecting. And maybe that's wholly intentional.

After all, the band's not breaking up; Liz and Sean still plan to tour and write songs. As reassurance, the crew gives us a taste of two new tracks: "Special Effects" and "Magnetic." During the latter, a kid next to me plays air piano and successfully cops a Freezepop fist-bump.

Then Liz announces "We're going to slow it down a little." She plops down on a riser, and they slip into "Outer Space." Ethereally gauzy and extra-chilled, this slow jam stands out against their hyper-cutesy discography and, especially in its lush live rendition, is probably the best example of how the band's songcraft has evolved over the last 10 years.

The night ends with a grand finale of "Less Talk More Rokk," which involves a lot of keytar thrashing and vertical leaping. As they wrap, Sean shouts: "Let's give it up for the Duke, as he holds his stump guitar!" There's a flurry of group-hugging; then they all troop off stage. "It's been real!" Liz calls over her shoulder. Indeed -- somehow, over the years, this silly lark grew wings. What does Freezepop's rokk future hold? Hard to guess. But even if it all had to end tonight, it's a fine note to go out on.


Not-quite-comprehensive Freezepop set list


Freezepop set list - 10th anniversary
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