Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Fleet Foxes (Night Two)...and More

Seeing Fleet Foxes at Spaceland on Sunday night (June 29) was a very different experience than the Echo the night before. First of all the crowd seemed more local, and, when I arrived, wrapped around the building. Soon they let ticket holders, of which I was one, into the delightfully cool and not yet crowded club. I wanted to be sure not to miss the opening set by Evan Way, who was encouraged by numerous members of his band, The Parson Red Heads, who were in attendance, including Sam, Brette and Erin and some whose names I have failed to remember. We all planted ourselves near the stage, where I intended to stay all night, to keep my position in the mad rush of Fleet Foxes fans. Running into Robin Pecknold at the back of the club, I had the chance to say hello and tell him how wonderful the Echo show had been and he thanked me for coming twice. He was just as one would expect; courteous, genuine and friendly. It felt like an honor just to shake his hand.

Evan Way took the stage and sang some of his folk compositions I'd never heard before. Very nice, simple acoustic set anchored by his sure, steady vocals and beautiful guitar playing. Sunny, with a touch of melancholy, is how I'd describe his music. His wife, and Parsons drummer, Brette, joined him for two numbers offering pretty harmonies and nice vocal variety. I was particularly pleased with the last song, whose title Evan told me, but I've forgotten, which displayed an impressive vocal discipline and control. It was also a really pretty song. Everyone near the stage was focused in rapt attention. Good job!

The crowd swelled rapidly as Spaceland threw open the doors to as many people as legally allowed. I had staked my ground near the front, maybe three people deep from center stage and wouldn't relent. I had no intention of being all the way in the back like at the Echo. I'd had enough of being a football field away from performers in the '60's and '70's, thank you. Tonight I would really see, up close, how Robin achieves that amazing sound.

The same opening band from the night before, The Duchess and The Duke, set up to play, as I had a nice chat with Erin Way, who kindly shared a little of her and brother Evan's background. I'm always curious what draws a person to music and everyone I meet seems to have a facinating back story. But then, doesn't everyone in L.A. have a back story? It's why we all moved here (us non-natives).

After The Duchess and The Duke played a pleasant set of bluegrassish rock, the place packed, Fleet Foxes took the stage amid screams and cheers and Robin apologized for a sore throat he'd just developed. They launched their fleet of harmonic wonders, playing basically the same set as the night before, which I didn't mind, as they played almost all their songs. Robin sounded just as good as at the Echo, despite having to cough and recover after each number. You could tell he was just this side of the flu, yet his mood still seemed ecstatic at the reception his music elicits from an audience and he couldn't contain the occasional, hopelessly uncontrollable grin that lights up the room. And to be up close in a room that was a good 20 degrees cooler than the Echo, I was overjoyed! This night I was able to enjoy the camaraderie of this band, how much they appear to enjoy each other and sharing this moment in their lives. I wouldn't be surprised to see them playing The Greek or The Hollywood Bowl by this time next year, so the chance to see them these two nights will remain a special memory for me.

I dashed back to Spaceland last night, Monday June 30 for the set by The Happy Hollows who were opening for Afternoons final night of residency. Of course, there was a great crowd to see this band since Sarah Negahdari is one of everybody's favorite people. And with good reason! Her heart appears to be as enormous as her talent. She and Charlie Mahoney and Chris Meanie deliver some of the hottest, rawest, driving rock and roll around. And they make noise beautiful! Few bands can get this out there into noise-rock territory without flopping over into boredom, for me, but this band does it with such style, ability and fearlessness while adhering to a basic song structure and never overindulging...they just floor me. What a gift!

I've seen them a lot, but last night was especially excellent, fueled by a super-loyal following, as they blazed through their set at breakneck speed and left the audience breathless. Spaceland can be an enchanting place!


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