please enjoy: Frog Unplugged and Unhinged

please enjoy: Frog Unplugged and Unhinged

The three members of the band Frog stand in triangular formation on a red-lit stage: Canary Club, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Daniel Bateman, clad in a crisp blue button-down with an acoustic guitar strapped to his chest—looking like a sort of business casual troubadour—greets the audience.

"We're all experiencing this for the first time," he says.

"No caveats, no caveats," Frog's percussionist/vocalist Steve Bateman (this would be Daniel's brother), pipes up from behind the kit. Bassist Tom White breaks into a smile.

"So if this is good," Daniel continues, "that's awesome. If it's not good, then just pretend it's awesome." The audience whoops, and then Frog proceed to play 40 broiling minutes of off-kilter alt-folk.

This little opening moment is a perfect microcosm of the performance captured in Frog Unplugged and Unhinged, a concert film by Jarod Walker released last month on the band's Patreon. In the film, the New Rochelle, NY-born / NYC-based band tears through tunes from their 2023 album GROG (plus older songs like "Miracle" and "Got the World At Your Fangs") acoustically, in a fascinating balance of harmonic energies: Daniel's jocular intensity, Steve's poker-faced structure, and Tom's along-for-the-ride steadiness.

I'm on the record as loving pretty much any and all concert films (so much I have attempted to make some myself) and the Frog Unplugged and Unhinged approach is simple and direct. One handheld camera roves from one Frog member to another, occasionally jostled around but never losing sight of the locked-in trio. The mono-camera really lets the songs shine.

GROG, by Frog
11 track album

The songs!! I first listened to GROG when Frog did a track-by-track for the album on The Alternative, and the album really blew me away. Old-fashioned and newfangled elements collide; "420!!" sounds like a barnraising square dance, but opens with the lines "Guess what? / You’re gonna cut next class for Taco Bell", and "U Shud Go 2 Me" is a deranged falsetto waltz that mashes up a freaky true crime tale with a chanted, "Row Row Row Your Boat"-esque treatment of the words Butthole Surfers, was it worth it?

The irreverent lyrics find an anchor in the chemistry between the three Frogs. Their partnership, especially displayed in the concert film, reminds me of something like The Shins crossed with O Brother, Where Art Thou?'s Soggy Bottom Boys: a commitment to rollicking tradition, to getting loudly weird in the well-tread 'indie rock' genre zone, and to generally making things work even when the railroad car veers off the tracks. Every song Frog plays is a little treasure—singular, timeworn, silly and very serious at the same time.

Frog Unplugged and Unhinged is a great glimpse at the Frog experience in action—you can watch it via their Patreon, where they are posting audio and video recordings of live shows, among other patron-style treats.

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