Justin Furstenfeld Tells His Story of Sobriety, Love and Life Through Song Blue October's Frontman Opens Up His Heart To An Adoring Crowd At Hotel Cafe
LOS ANGELES, CA- On July 12th, 2018, Justin Furstenfeld, the frontman for the chart topping alternative rock band Blue October, started a 5 week “Open Book” acoustic residency at the Hotel Cafe. With a new Blue October album, I Hope You’re Happy, slated for release on August 17th, you wouldn’t expect Justin to be “working” during his time away from the band prior to preparing for a 30 date domestic tour in support of the new album, but he’s got a story to tell … and he tells it well.
I was able to spend a few minutes with Justin to take some portraits prior to his taking the stage in the intimate, 165 capacity room. He greeted me warmly like I was a friend he’d known forever, and went out of his way to accommodate my requests. He was so personable, and kind – not to mention hilarious- during my brief time with him, I just had a sense that the evening’s patrons would be in for a real special treat.
He gave some of his die-hard fans an opportunity to hang with him during soundcheck, giving them a chance to ask him some personal questions. What I took away from his intimate interactions with the soundcheck audience was that he truly cares about his fans. When he was asked about what irks him most when he’s on stage in this type of setting, he bluntly stated that at these shows, his fans open up to him with their own troubles and that they should be accorded as much respect and attention that he gets. He can’t stand when people in the audience aren’t connecting with all of the stories, his and his fans, that are being told.
Thankfully, the audience on this night didn’t need a scolding from Justin.
After the general admission ticket holders had entered the performance room, Justin took the stage and regaled us with a chronological musical history of his life story; a story that’s still being written but has had so many ups and downs. Justin doesn’t shy away from any topic. He’s open and vulnerable, really allowing the audience to get into his head and learn about the man behind the music.
When a fan in the audience asked him if he relives the music when he performs it, he admitted:
“It’s good to cry […] When I went away to get help, there was something they taught me. They studied my music, and they said that I regurgitated my pain. When I walk off the stage, I need to turn it off, I need to embrace the old me before the drugs [start calling for me]. Now, when I sing the music, I sing it with gratitude.”
He sang with gratitude all night long.
He started from the beginning, telling the story about the first song he wrote and the stories kept rolling from there. He weaved into his narrative the backgrounds of how songs came to be, then performing those songs for the audience so they could hear exactly what he was talking about.
There were stories that induced laughter (the story about his “A” tattoo), inspiration (the story about his first band getting “called in” after one of their first performances), love (his wife … man, does he love his wife… and PS, he let’s us know that getting backstage passes to a Lil Wayne concert is not a good date) and his sobriety. In a particularly telling moment, he admits the reasons why there are certain songs he just can’t sing anymore.
I’ve got plenty of notes on the stories he told on this night, but there’s no adequate way for me to write about them here. Justin’s good humor and honesty is what gives all his stories, and his songs, life. You need to hear the regret in his voice when he talks about things that he’s ashamed of. You need to hear the way his tone perks up every time he talks about his wife and kids.You need to hear him laugh at his own jokes. You need to hear the awe in his voice when speaks about that moment during his rehab when he had his personal revelation. You just need to see and hear him tell and sing his story.
If I didn’t know any better, his performance at Hotel Cafe was more than just a concert. It was a conversation. It was therapy. It was a performance piece. It was insight into a man’s soul through his words.
Fans of Blue October will be happy to hear that he performed many of the band’s hits including “Hate Me”, “Home”, “Into The Ocean” and “Calling You”, but what made those songs even more powerful were the stories behind them and the way they were told, and to know exactly what I’m talking about, you’re just going to have to buy a ticket find out.