"America, your economy is shit." Cats on Fire singer Mattais Björkas was addressing the NYC Popfest crowd at Don Hill's with grave seriousness. "Our is too of course. And greenhouse gasses are at an all-time high. Of course, that didn't stop us from bringing a suitcase full of Finish bottled water on the airplane with us." Rimshot! It was at this point that I realized I had him figured all wrong. Impeccably dressed and coiffed, prone to pursed lips, I thought he was kind of a sourpuss when the Finnish band played Don Hill's at last year's Popfest.
But last night I got it -- he's hilarious. And I don't mean laugh at this person prancing around onstage. Björkas is a genuinely funny guy with a bone-dry wit and tongue planted firmly in cheek. And when not playing guitar, he has the guts to dance onstage the way many of us dance to the Smiths when no one else is at home. The rest of the band are ace, it should be noted, ably replicating the immaculate, arpeggiated pop (think Aztec Camera, Smiths, Felt, Eggstone) found on 2007's The Province Complains and the excellent, just-released Our Temperance Movement. And Cats on Fire are a flat-out great live band, the whole group has chops, and the audience was lapping it up, dancing... well, more of a bob and sway than the geek-out the music really meritted.
If you missed them Friday night, Cats on Fire play Bruar Falls with Swedish trio (and fellow Popfest-ers) Liechtenstein on Tuesday, May 19. I highly recommend you clear your schedule. Our Temperance Movement was just released in the U.S. on Matinee Recordings and if you like the MP3s on this post, you're gonna want to get the whole thing.
I shot video of two songs, which you can watch if you click through the jump...