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Shedding light on life after dark

Indie Rockers Freelance Whales Return to Conquer Bowery Ballroom

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For a five-piece indie rock band that combines an array of disparate instruments, from banjos to synthesizers to a harmonium, it's funny to imagine that Freelance Whales are most often quizzed about their quirky name.

Then again, they are named after large, sea-dwelling mammals that may or may not have health insurance.

"The name comes from this incident in my early childhood when I was a kid in Israel," said Judah Dadone, the band's founder (and the closest thing to a frontman in this harmonious quintet). "I nearly drowned, and someone had pulled me to the side of the shore, and this man who had watched the whole thing transpire -- he was a local man and kind of the town nutso -- called me a freelance whale."

The band was in a jovial mood last night, no doubt excited that their debut LP "Weathervanes" had dropped earlier that same day, and, of course, for their first headlining gig at a venue that seems to stamp a group with legitimacy, The Bowery Ballroom.

Hanging out on the leather couches populating the third-floor greenroom, they relaxed after a long sound-check by chatting with their girlfriends (in the case of Jake Hyman and Chuck Criss), giving their Greek mom directions to the gig (in the case of the band's lone female member, multi-linguist Doris Cellar) and munching on celery sticks and eying a bottle of Jameson, both of which came courtesy of their rider.

"This is our first rider!" exclaimed guitarist/keyboardist Kevin Read, garnering a few hearty guffaws from a group who not long ago busked on the nearby corner of Houston and Allen Streets.

Doris was equally smitten with the party favors. "Everyone's looking at the Jameson like it's glowing," she giggled, suggesting that the after-party might well begin with a few ceremonial swigs of the green-hued bottle following their set.

But before the whiskey got flowing, there was of course a show to play, and the band -- despite their lighthearted whimsy -- was all business in that regard. They’d played Bowery before, most notably during the circus of CMJ, yet the lack of a real sound check left them (and perhaps the audience) dissatisfied with the final result.

Last night, however, with a successful sound-check in the books and an ever-growing fan base, the boys (and girl!) were confident, convinced things would be different.

“We’re happy to make friends with The Bowery Ballroom,” said an at peace Judah.

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