Monday, October 06, 2008

Fleet Foxes Show, Black Cat, October 3

Envy me. I want to bask in your jealousy.

I was able to get in to see Fleet Foxes this past Friday.

... Come on, ENVY ME!

I guess you don't know who the Fleet Foxes are. I gather that most of DC doesn't know who they are. And yet, they sold out the Black Cat so quickly that all the indie kids were writhing their hands in agony. Tickets for the show were going for $125 on Craigslist. That's a $110 markup! So those in the know were quite envious when I told them I was going.

Even if you didn't envy me just by hearing their name, you should still consider yourself unlucky that you missed an awesome show.

The opening act was weird. Just one guy, sitting on the stage, no change in the lights. It was hard to tell from the back that he had even come onto the stage. I had to get up very close to hear and comprehend what was going on. He was a strange bird, with his white dress shirt buttoned up to the top-collar button. He played the banjo, the guitar, the fiddle, the slide guitar. His blues/roots music seemed cut from the O Brother Where Art Thou reels. His more instrumental songs were more pleasant to listen to, not just because he played them perfectly in his vein but also because his voice was hard to take. His singing voice seemed like an affected Appalachian twang, dissonant and strained. I couldn't tell if it was real or not. His whole act seemed so surreal, I couldn't tell what was true and what was false. Even his expression was hard to understand: he was scowling, frowning, and generally looking like he was having the worst time of his life. It was a very strange scene. I felt like the guy would be really interesting in a random bar in the South, but here, he was out of place.

Fleet Foxes came on pretty soon after that. They started with an a capella version of one of their songs. The harmonies set the tone for the night: pleasant, moving melodies, sung from their gut to yours.

I had listened to their CD a few times before the concert, but I hadn't really been a fan. Yes, sorry envious indie kid (I know you're out there), I took the ticket away from the real fans. But after the concert I understood the music better. I felt like I knew what they had been trying to do. The CD sounds a little hollow, a little distant, the voice hard to pick out of the guitars. But now I get it: it's all about the rawness of their concerts live.

Raw isn't the right word, because it connotes "unformed." Their melodies are very formed and calculated. They played a new song during their set, and they apologized before it and after about it not really being finished yet. What I mean by raw is simply the force of it. Maybe it was because I was standing four feet from the speakers on stage right, but the music was powerful, performed live. It made more sense, live, than it had on the CD.

The band was friendly, but they weren't really sure what to say to a DC crowd. They kept reverting to talking about politics. They asked if anybody'd seen Carville around, or served Rumsfeld a beer and gotten a bad tip. Someone from the audience replied that they'd seen Dick Cheney in the Self-Help section of a bookstore. The band asked if Cheney had "radiated" evil like they'd imagine he would. (I guess neocons wouldn't be coming to a Fleet Foxes show.)

Another guy from the audience kept shouting out "Bicycle Tusk!" I didn't know that song, but the lead singer was taken aback. "Bicycle Tusk? Did we go to high school together?"

The show felt warm and inviting. I didn't know the words to any of the songs, but they were easy to pick up. I was soon trying to sing along with most of the lyrics. The welcoming demeanor and the warm harmonies felt like singalongs were encouraged. Maybe the people right in front of me didn't appreciate it, but I don't care. It's not like I was louder than those 8-foot speakers.

So envy me; I got to know Fleet Foxes firsthand.

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