Fleet Foxes are one talented band of musicians and I’d definitely recommend you give them a listen, at least to try them out on you auditory senses. The release of their second album Helplessness Blues last year offered fans something slightly different while maintaining the same kind of ethereal sound as its self-titled predecessor. With the seemingly meteoric rise of Mumford and Sons to a mainstream audience in 2010 bands like Fleet Foxes have been receiving a little more radio play than they typically would do. It isn’t nearly enough airplay but like the supermarket dictator of the world, Tesco spout in their insincere condescending tone, ‘Every little helps.’ It therefore came as no surprise this gig at Wolverhampton Civic Hall on 23rd June 2011 was a sell out.
A False Start
Unfortunately the first two songs performed were marred by the incompetence of the venue’s sound engineers for which I don’t think the band can be held totally responsible. As powerful as Robin Pecknold’s voice is, the cacophony from the instruments (as musically superb as it might have been) drowned it out almost entirely. Thankfully by the third song it had been smoothed out so the remainder of the show was pretty much perfect holding many in the audience captivated for the duration.
And They’re Off
From the melodious splendour of White Winter Hymnal and He Doesn’t Know Why to the beckoning of Blue Ridge Mountains and Ragged Wood each had the ability to yank off your scalp (although not literally, thankfully) exposing your brain more directly to the delectable offerings. Then, Your Protector began its gentle and gradual climb up one of those mountains, gathering together other instruments on the way up before erupting into a tour de force of amazing lyrical and musical performance before the first minute was out. As the words, ‘You run with the devil,’ were sung out in unison the big red beast appeared before my eyes! But fear not for it was only Dave Grohl from Tenacious D’s The Pick of Destiny and he vanished in a puff of green smoke as the Foxes hummed a harmony that acted as a vanquishing spell.
The new album’s opener Montezuma sounded outstanding while the more delicately beautiful Blue Spotted Tail echoed pure perfection. Pecknold held the audience by himself while the band retired for a break before the encore; belting out Oliver James with only minimal guitar and someone in the crowd shouting ‘Come on!’ he sang so forcefully it’s a wonder the veins in his head didn’t burst spattering the audience in a shower of blood.
From Lobelia to the Plains/Bitter Dancer to the Shrine/an Argument and The Cascades, there was little doubt we were in the presence of musical giants. Finishing with the title track Helplessness Blues seriously left me wanting my very own orchard so I can work until I’m so sore all I can do is sit in a rocking chair on the porch listening to Fleet Foxes albums. Perhaps this is their overall plan? If it is count me in.
A Heavenly Trip
If Band of Horses (seen earlier in 2011) made me feel like I was floating effortlessly on a cloud listening to angels play their songs on harpsichords, Fleet Foxes took it a step further (or perhaps even several steps). I was instead sitting at the feet of the Gods (and I’m an atheist) as each song was revealed inside my mind as a story of spectacular and wondrous depth. It was kind of like what I imagine a really good acid trip* would be, involving angel choirs singing to the sounds of higher order orchestras combined with unicorns on lead guitar, squirrels on bass and badgers playing banjos. There were even Oompa Loompas (but with wings) dressed in fox costumes as they sang in perfect harmonies with the angel choirs.
On top of this I was left with a burning personal question. Why on earth did I ever have my hair cut short and how long would it take to grow it again? Added to this my need for one of those beards I directed my cloud in the direction of Seattle to see if I could speed up the process however I’m afraid I stalled and the ending of the evening’s entertainment bought me crashing back down to reality as I had to drive all the way back to Northampton.
Check out their website for much more information about the band at Fleet Foxes.
*Please note I do not encourage or endorse the use of drugs. It was the Gods, not me who made it appear like an acid trip. If you don’t wish to blame the Gods then I hear those Oompa Loompas are quite colourful characters (pun intended). They probably slipped it into the beer.