Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Feed Your Head in Boston - Fleet Foxes

Monday (October 6, 2008) I was off to see Fleet Foxes and Frank Fairfield at the Somerville Theatre in Somerville, Mass. It's actually not far from downtown Boston, being only two subway stops beyond Harvard Square. It's in Davis Square, which is a beautifully restored area with nice shops, theatres, brick sidewalks and trees; very New England.

Frank Fairfield was already on when I arrived, so I was shown to my fourth row seat, and looked around at the gorgeous theatre I was in. Frank was on his guitar when I got there and although the theatre was only half full, he commanded the audiences attention easily. Taking up the banjo next, he stunned the crowd with his picking, which is always brilliant. He played some of my favorites including "Hesitation Blues" and "Old Paint" and one I think I hadn't heard before called "Casey Jones", which was wonderful.

I wondered how Frank would be received across the country as he opened for Fleet Foxes. Opening for a band that has become that popular can be treacherous, but, if Boston was any indication, Frank rose to the occasion admirably. He was warmly received by an attentive audience and I couldn't have wished a better reception for him. People know quality music.

I wandered out to the lobby during the break to take in the theatre. They still show movies upstairs in some shoe boxes and downstairs is the Museum of Bad Art. Ironically, a friend in L.A. urged me to try to find this museum while in Boston, and here I just bumped into it because of this concert. Freaky! (By he way, the museum had an exhibit of indescribably bad portraiture, which I took a few moments to enjoy at the end of the evening).

At the merch table I saw Frank and we spoke. He was half expecting to see me here as I'd told him my plans to see this show. He said he's enjoyed touring but is looking forward to getting home in two weeks. A very gracious gentleman.

Fleet Foxes took the stage around 8:30 to a tumultuous reception from the sold out house. From the first moments of the warm up number, the first cut off Sun Giant, the audience was giddy with delight. After launching into "The Sun It Rises", Robin Pecknold explained that this was the first sit down concert they'd ever given and it felt very weird to him. So, all at once, the audience began rising until the whole orchestra section was standing. And we remained standing for the rest of the set. No one wanted to sit anyway once their music began levitating us.

The sound was strong and powerful and their voices clear and beautifully defined. As a friend said to me after the El Rey show in L.A., their sound is far more muscular live. This was the fourth time I've seen them and I have yet to hear anything less than a perfect sound mix.

I've heard complaints that they talk too much between songs, but I find it real humanizing. These guys are young and enthusiastic and just starting out and they have come very far, very fast. Let them bask in the early glow of stardom. I find their banter disarmingly genuine. I've had the opportunity to speak with most of them and they're the same off stage as on.

They played pretty much their entire repertory including "Drops In the River" and "White Winter Hymnal". Robin performed his stunning solo number "Tiger Mountain Peasant Song" and at one point came out from behind the mike to stand on the skirt of the stage to deliver a beautiful song directly to the theatre. With just his guitar, he blew every ones mind. You could have heard a pin drop. Wonderful to hear his amazing voice unmiked and it carried right up to the rafters.

For their encore they performed that new song I heard at the El Rey and "Mykonos", which just gets more beautiful each time I hear them perform it. The audience was ecstatic by the end and pretty much overwhelmed.

Afterward I spoke briefly to Skyler Skjelset on stage and saw Casey Wescott in the lobby who looked at me and said, "I know you" whereby I reminded him we'd met in L.A. two weeks before. I love the way these guys come out to meet their fans. It shows the quality of their character and the humanity reflected in their music.


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