Foxing Clever


Jun 17 2008, 10h10

Sun 15 Jun – Fleet Foxes, Beach House

I can understand why Spinal Tap wanted to turn it up to 11. The thing is, sometimes you realise you've got your settings all wrong. You think you've seen a great gig, say an 9 out 10, and then another not so good gig that's maybe a 7 out of 10.

And then, now and again, you see a band so fantastic live that you're forced to totally recalibrate your scores. And that 9 out of 10 suddenly looks silly, because where does that leave Fleet Foxes, which must therefore be a 13 out of 10? Yes, that good.

(Btw, I don't actually go to gigs and give them scores. That would be a truly lamentable activity. I might be the kind of loser that writes reviews of gigs on lastfm, but I do have some standards, people.)

Anyway, where we? Oh yes, reviewing one of the best gigs I've ever been to. Now that's a tall claim. I've been to a lot of gigs. I've seen The Smiths on their The Queen Is Dead tour, Os Mutantes gloriously reformed, David Bowie singing the whole of Low and a personal (and somewhat peculiar) highlight, McAlmont & Butler. But really, the bearded quintet from Seattle were right up there with them.

Partly, it's the intimacy of the Brudenell venue. But really, it was being so close to such accomplished musicians, singing such fabulous songs and clearly enjoying every last moment of singing together and doing so with such joy. Have you ever seen men with such big beards having such a laugh with the audience? I'm not suggesting that beards are a sign of po-facedness or that ZZ Top weren't a laugh a minute, but I guess I expected a rather precious artistry from them and there was none of that. What there was, from the first moment they opened their mouth and sang those incredible four part harmonies, was a hush that descended on the audience as they realised that yes, these guys were the real deal. As my friend said after the gig, they have that wonderful thing of the voices coming from the same part of the world, and so, like The Beatles and the Beach Boys, there's a gorgeous closeness to their vocal mannerisms that just turns that sound into something whole. Pity poor old Beach House, a perfectly reasonable band rendered stunningly ordinary in comparison. Shared double billing? Who's anyone kidding?

I guess the charge that could most easily be levelled at Fleet Foxes is that they're hardly original: a mishmash of the Beach Boys, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and even a surprising sprinkling of British folk rock a la Fairport Convention. Well, I guess that's true, but as I argued in a recent review of an MGMT gig at the Cockpit, music's all about conviction. Do they mean it? Is it for real? The other thing is, other than profondly experimental noisecore or ambient duck noises, what's really original? Hell, since Elvis Presley stole/re-imagined black music and turned it into rock n roll, hasn't popular music all been about pilfering? And when the songs and the sounds made are this good, does it really matter?


  • PhilBe

    Very good and well written review! I too see loads of gigs every year (since 1978) but these guys were something special. That Robin Pecknold...only 21 and what a talent! Thanks for sharing your Fleet Foxes experience.

    Jun 18 2008, 7h22
  • Babs_05

    Lovely review. : )

    Jun 26 2008, 3h18
  • emergingsynergy

    Nice. Thank you.

    Jun 29 2008, 11h41
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