Friday, September 23, 2011

Live Review: Fleet Foxes w/ The Walkmen @ Raleigh Amphitheater 9/21

Fleet Foxes (pictured above) performed live at the
Raleigh Amphitheater on September 21st with The Walkmen.
Since the release of their eponymous debut album in 2008, the Seattle-based Fleet Foxes have easily become one of the most talked-about bands in the independent music scene, and with good reason. Their dreamlike folk tunes and intricately crafted vocal harmonies combine for a truly original and inspiring sound which was perfected with the release of their second full length, Helplessness Blues, earlier this year (and each member of the Myxem staff found a place in the top three for it on their "Best of 2011 So Far" lists). This was a show I had been looking forward to for quite some time, and what could have easily gone down as a huge disappointment ended up becoming a pretty memorable experience.

The reason I say this was a potential disappointment was because it rained. I suppose that may be an understatement; the skies opened up and absolutely poured. It was bearable at first. We arrived at the venue in time to get seated before it started sprinkling. The rain remained light but steady until about halfway through the opening act. Maybe I was just impatient due to the inclement weather, but the Walkmen failed to hold my attention. I'd heard great things from friends, but really there wasn't a whole lot that stood out to me. It was some fun, danceable, vaguely garage-y pop rock which might have been enjoyable at a smaller club, but in a rainy amphitheater in the middle of downtown, it really didn't do the trick.

The Walkmen, here performing a special session for
Seattle's KEXP earlier in September.
Click above to listen.
By the time the Walkmen left the stage, the rain was falling in sheets. The staff had run out of the makeshift ponchos they were giving away, so most of us were left to soak. The projection screen behind the stage showed what looked like a postcard snapshot with text that read "You Are At A Musical Concert. Congratulations." In the pouring rain, it was almost an inspiration, reminding us why were were still standing here. When the Foxes took the stage, the crowd went ballistic as though there were no rain at all. Frontman Robin Pecknold quipped, with total sincerity, "Wow.....I give so much of a shit about entertaining you people right now." The band wasted no time playing through their repertoire, launching through soaring ballads "Grown Ocean", "Battery Kinzie", and "Lorelai" from their most recent album, as well as a few selections from their self-titled effort (most notably "White Winter Hymnal" and "Ragged Wood", which ended up being the last two songs of their set).

At this point, Pecknold thanked the audience yet again for toughing out the elements to see them perform; he was cut off by several bolts of lightning, rolling thunder, and a crackling PA system. Pecknold then said something about needing to leave the stage to take a break, at which point the crowd pleaded for another song. The band obliged the request and jammed out one more, despite the fact that no one could hear what song it was since the PA had been broken. Regardless, the crowd went mad yet again, running through aisles of seats and splashing in puddles, until Pecknold and crew were forced to leave the stage and the crowd was invited to wait out the rain from the convention center across the street. At this point, my cohorts and I drove home to get dried off (we couldn't have gotten back in anyway, since the tickets in our pockets had been saturated to a pulp and disintegrated). Regardless, it was a fantastic evening and a memory I will have for the rest of my life. And I didn't get pneumonia from it, so there's that.

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