Have you ever gone to see an artist or band that you like only to have the show be so vehemently good that you instantly shift from from casual enthusiast to full blown fanatic? Well friends my name is Stephanie, and I’m a Fleet Foxes addict.
Now I’ve never kept my affection for the Seattle band a secret. At the same time, I didn’t expect an acoustic Americana folk band to rock quite so much live. I love the Fleet Foxes entire collection, but rarely find myself putting their records on and turning it up to eleven. But turn it up to eleven they did. Six musicians, dozens of musical instruments, three and four part harmonies, and a percussive rhythm that was so driving it sounded like a train at times all culminated in a cacophony of loud and hypnotic sound.
Fresh from a gig at last weekend Austin City Limits music festival, Fleet Foxes traded an expansive festival stage for the quaint and quiet Florida Theater in Jacksonville. Originally opened in 1927, the theater’s antique architecture and intimate ambiance served as a perfect backdrop for the Fleet Foxes’ show.
With each member of the band playing multiple instruments (often at the same time), the stage looked like a high school band director’s dream come true. Mandolins, an upright piano, a stand up bass, violins, dozens of hand percussion instruments, a flute, several keyboards, and lots of things I don’t even want to try to identify. And leading all of the harmony and commotion is the shy yet brilliant Robin Pecknold. I found it fascinating to watch Pecknold – who insists on tuning his own guitar and only seemed to rely on a guitar tech when he broke a string. While he’s clearly the shepherd of the Foxes, he’s seemingly uncomfortable as the mouthpiece for the band, often relying on drummer Joshua Tillman to provide the banter between songs.
To the cheers of a sold out theater the band played songs from their 2008 self titled record as well as this year’s Helplessness Blues album. We were even treated to a solo acoustic new song by Pecknold, which was a somber little tune about a shy guy and a surely unrequited love. The band closed their 90 plus minute set with the hauntingly pretty “Helplessness Blues” to receive their second standing ovation from a delighted audience.
The Foxes selected The Walkmen as their supporting act and the East Coast based five piece performed an excellent opening set. All in all I struggle to put into words how amazing the night was. The complexities of FF’s set – all of the elements, the instruments, the sonic intricacies, the voices and harmonies, the mid song drastic tempo and key changes – it’s sort of a wonder to see it all come together…dripping in the emotion of Pecknold’s lyrics and Tillman’s charging percussion.
Fans of other multi-instrumentalist Americana bands getting attention right now like Mumford and Sons, the Avett Brothers, Yonder Mountain String Band, Old Crow Medicine Show, etc. should absolutely hatch a plan to see Fleet Foxes live – and soon before the opportunity to see them at small venues is no more. This is not your mother’s folk band, friends.