Words by: Sarah Hagerman | Images by: Dave Jackson
Fleet Foxes :: 07.02.08 :: The Mohawk :: Austin, TX
There's a thick juicy layer of hype surrounding Fleet Foxes at the moment, as was evidenced by the crowd gathered outside The Mohawk waiting in vain hope for extra tickets, and the unusually gruff security at the side door minding the guest list. Meanwhile, on the concrete patio jungle that makes up the venue, I was languishing under the sweaty weight of the Austin summer air, with a hip local crowd crammed converse to converse.
My general crankiness was not alleviated by openers The Dutchess and the Duke, who unfortunately embodied everything everyone loves to hate about the bastardized term "indie" – tuneless, low-fi, folky songs with an image of ironic thrift store fashion and eyewear purchases. Perhaps on record with thoughtful production it's palatable, but live you just wanted to send it back to the kitchen. After this, I needed cold water and a place to plant myself for a few minutes, but no such luck – the crowd drew in tighter post-openers in anticipation for the Foxes, standing on any available chairs and tree stumps.
The mid-set listlessness was broken as soon as the Foxes took their seats and a great hum came through the speakers. It grew to an expanse of fertile harmony, a collective shush falling down around us as the sonic warmth of "Sun Giant" (from the EP of the same title) enveloped the horde. Total absorption complete, the jangly guitars and thumping percussion brought the sound back to the ground, feet sinking into cool soil and meadow grasses. The CSNY and Beach Boys comparisons abound, and are not inaccurate, but that which breathes lovely, at times nostalgic, delight on record has blood coursing through its veins live.
The stage lights of The Mohawk suddenly seemed like pleasant home fires, and indeed, a substantial crowd had gathered around the outside, faces peering through holes in the fence to take in the glow. Inside the atmosphere felt cozy and friendly instead of cramped, as some folks near me generously swapped their stump space for me to stand on, where I could peer over the forest of flesh.
|Fleet Foxes :: 07.02 :: The Mohawk|
Their lyrics have snatches and flashes of imagery reminiscent of Wordsworth romanticism, the serenity and escape of idealized nature cut with the occasional melancholy of mortality in numbers like "White Winter Hymnal," (which received the most audible cheer of recognition). The dreamlike wordplay takes on a lip-smackingly lush quality live, as it flickers with shots of reverb that glimmer and fade like 4th of July sparklers and shines with those transcendent four-part harmonies that burn bright and brilliant. What is most distinctive about the Foxes' music is the vocals, but the sonorous organ-like keyboards of Casey Westcott and the dual guitars of frontman Robin Pecknold and Skye Skjelset draw on a similarly expansive canvas.
Filling the spaces in between songs with dryly humorous stage banter, Pecknold, wearing a wool hat and long sleeved shirt, revealed that he was sick with the flu, but also claimed he was trying to cover his "flabby arms and weird embarrassing haircut." Later, new drummer Josh Tillman discussed the perils of vitamin shopping at holistic supercult empire Whole Foods. It was ultimately a short show (due to the pressures of curfews and probably illnesses as well), but nevertheless the Foxes elevated my mood, leaving me thoroughly lured into following their future path. As Pecknold came out for a solo encore of "Tiger Mountain Peasant Song," I felt transported to a field, searching for cloud shapes, or simply floating in suspension above that concrete earth.
Check out JamBase's exclusive feature/interview with Fleet Foxes here.
Fleet Foxes are on tour now, dates available here.
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