Idiot Glee, the brainchild of Lexington, KY musician James Friley, was a 35 Denton virgin until Friday night.
He was intitiated into the fest in the Old Dirty Basement at J&J’s Pizza, that sticky hole in the wall that creaks and groans when the music isn’t drowning out the traffic upstairs. (Oh, hey, will someone nudge the management at J&J’s? When Friley got going Friday, it started a not-so-slow leak from the bar plumbing above.)
In turn, Idiot Glee initiated Denton into his groove, a gumbo of pop hooks, electronic music and arty chords.
Friley is a classically-trained pianist, majoring in performance at the university of Kentucky. He’s been a band guy for a good while now. But it wasn’t until about four years ago that the seed for Idiot Glee was planted.
“Before this, I was in a regular rock and roll band,” Friley said, accommodating questions while breaking down his console. “I started thinking I needed to start my own thing. If I did that, I wouldn’t have to worry about other people making it to practice. You know, and all that other stuff that goes with being in a band.”
Idiot Glee consists of Friley’s adventurous voice, a pedal loop player and two miniature keyboards. The small audience at J&J’s didn’t get the best of the artist thanks either to the wanting acoustics (or Glee’s wanting gear. Friley told a sound op after the performance that part of his set up had been idle for a while). Nevertheless, you could hear what Idiot Glee is about.
And the project is about constructing fully-realized songs on the spot, with the bare bones of rhythm and tone.
“I always do something a little different when I play these songs live,” Friley said. “That might annoy the people who love the records, but I never play the same song the same way.”
Idiot Glee had a nice assembly of merch buyers at the end of his set. And here’s why: Friley starts with a strong, hooky beat and an unexpected tone. He snaps unexpected notes and harmonies in place and then — and only then — he performs a radio-worthy pop tune over it. Sure, he got a shaky start, but once he finished up, most booties were bumping. Some women gave up the ghost and danced.
Friley said it took a bit to reach a confident place as the live edition of Idiot Glee.
“You definitely feel exposed when it’s just you,” he said. “When I first started out, I was really nervous. I wouldn’t even look up. I got over the stage fright, though.”
You can stream Idiot Glee’s latest, “Life Without Jazz” here.