Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Fleet Foxes Review (In Words)

I always say there are (at least) 3-parts to a live show. There's the band itself, which includes the material they choose to perform, their energy and their chops as musicians. The 2nd part to a show is the venue itself, which includes sound quality, drink prices, temperature, and vantage points for watching the show. The third part is often the one that tends to stick with you and that's the crowd. Generally speaking the first two parts receive positive reviews from me at most Austin shows and it's just the third part that tends to over-shadow the rest.

Keeping that all in mind, I saw Fleet Foxes at Stubb's last night. I have seen them perform once before in July of 2008, which was one month after their first album came out. That show was, also, sold-out and the performance took place on the Mohawk's outside stage. In other words, last night's show had mighty big shoes to fill. Let me tell you, those shoes are full my friends. As of last night the newest Fleet Foxes LP has been out for a week and a lot of the tunes, including the gorgeous title-track, already sound classic. There are lots of artists who can't pull off their studio sound in a live setting, Fleet Foxes are not a part of that group. Their songs are known for multi-part vocal harmonies and they pull them off spectacularly in a live setting. I'm not going to say there weren't any issues but the few times when a sour note was song, the offending vocalist turned away from the mic and re-calibrated. In other words, these dudes have chops as serious as their beards. Theoretically, you'll be able to hear last night's show on NPR, as it was webcast live.

As far as the venue is concerned, I hear a lot of mixed reviews for Stubb's but as far as I'm concerned there isn't a venue that can match its capacity that does a better job. Sure the BRAND-NEW ACL Live venue is fantastic as well but there's something to be said for the open air atmosphere at Stubb's as well as the smell of smoked meat wafting through the crowd throughout the performance. Sure it's gonna cost you at least $5 for an alcoholic beverage but that's true at ACL Live and countless other venues across the country as well. The sounds is always great, and there are a variety of vantage points. I did see/hear short people complaining that they couldn't see very well but I'm sure that's ALSO true at most shows they go to.

So, now it's on to the messy business of reviewing the crowd. Last night's show was sold-out and Fleet Foxes' music appeals to a wide-array of people. I was, admittedly, nervous about how the crowd was going to behave last night. I can, happily, report that GENERALLY SPEAKING the crowd was respectful and attentive in my section. I'm not saying that no one was jabbering away but compared to shows I've been to in the past it was quite subdued. With the delicate, quiet sounds of Fleet Foxes any attempts to chat over the music were extremely disruptive and I felt like people were policing themselves and each other quite well. This was also true when I, recently, saw The Decemberists at Stubb's. I'm always surprised by people who are willing to shell out the cash for a show only to talk through most of the performance and I've been known to call people out at shows for over-talking. Mr. S. did have to lay the verbal smack down on two sets of chatty, drunken hoes last night but his message was received and they toned it down or moved after a bit.

All in all, Fleet Foxes at Stubb's receives high marks from this blogger. For those of you who feel like the band is boring, that's your business. For me, their music is a blanket fresh from the dryer, or a steaming bowl of soup on a wintry day. I'll take "boring", aural comfort-food over whatever you're dishing out any day.