Photo courtesy of Carlos Chavez / Los Angeles Times
**Note: This is my official review for Neublack, so you'll note copious references to said website in this review.**
Fleet Foxes graced Los Angeles with their presence on Saturday night at the Echo in Echo Park. I previously reviewed their stellar LP here, and was greatly anticipating what kind of show would be in store for the evening.
But first things first.
This is Neublack, after all: purveyors of The Awesome in LA and beyond, denizens of The Cool and Unusual, we spend endless weekends tirelessly discovering what's new or great or worthy of your attention so you have something to read during your weekday 9 - 5.
Before the show, I checked out a newish bar on Sunset called El Prado. Despite its proximity to plenty of other spots (Tiki Ti, Good Luck, Gold Room), The Echo isn't really within comfortable walking distance from any decent bars (and by "walking distance," I mean, stumbling distance, which is about 35 feet).
Until now, that is. Situated right smack dab across the street from The Echo, El Prado keeps it simple: Beer, snacks, records. The atmosphere is chill, the staff is cool, the Franzenkaner is $5 and they play Stevie Wonder. In my book, that's all you can really hope for, and El Prado certainly delivers.
Back to the show. Despite the fact that it was Death Valley-hot in the venue, the crowd was in relatively good spirits, myself included. I had a clear view of the stage as the band soundchecked before the show.
Had a clear view, that is, until a dude with a fistfull of beer hunkered down in front of me, completely blocking my view of anything but the lights on the ceiling above the stage. No, really. Thanks bro. I had hoped to at least get a sense of things from watching the guys onstage work their magic, but then some blockhead with shoulders the width of the venue decides to to set up camp in front of me. I spent the first half of the Foxes' set peering through shiny rows of gelled hair while my human wall occasionally turned around to his buddy behind him to give him the chin greeting. U still there, brah? Yeah? Bitchin'. U dig?
I don't. But you know what? Despite all that, the Fleet Foxes were truly the center of the room. The first words out of Robin Pecknold's mouth were, "What a life I lead in the summer..." And truer words were never crooned, my friend. "Sun It Rises" kicked things off while the band worked through its catalogue thusfar--most of the tracks from the self-titled LP and Sun Giant EP were offered, the highlight being the full-throttle "Your Protector," which thumped and chugged along at full speed while the crowd responded in turn.
But the highlight, truly, was Pecknold's honeyed vocals. He belted out a few tunes on his own, often even without the help of his acoustic guitar, and the resulting sound was mesmerizing. His crystalline timbre stood out far and away, obliterating any previous comparisons the band has suffered to My Morning Jacket or Band of Horses. Listening to the heartbreaking "Oliver James" unravel, I couldn't help but draw a different kind of comparison; that being one of Ruscha's velvety ribbon-words, the visual equal to Pecknold's sliding enunciation and golden tenor.
Lisp (paper tape), 1968, courtesy of edruscha.com
I had emailed the band with a couple of questions, but sadly they haven't responded to my inquiry as of yet. However, I was still determined to get the scoop from Robin et al, so below are the questions I asked the band, along with what I imagine their fictional answers might have been on Saturday night after the show.
Neublack: So you're from Seattle, the Pacific Northwest, home of rain, trees, and That Little Neighborhood Coffee Shop. How much have your years spend in the Emerald City influenced your music?Robin Pecknold: Well, for one, we're completely ill-equipped to handle this hot weather. You will note that we took the stage in various plaids--flannels, that is--and it was hotter than Coachella in there. Given that it's the middle of Summer and it still managed to rain this weekend in the Pacific Northwest, we're always prepared for precipitation, not for stifling walls of heat.NeuB: The flowing man-locks you all sport probably didn't help, either.RP: No, they didn't.NeuB: Pardon me while I fan myself. You're on tour right now, which means you're playing a whole helluva lot of venues in a short amount of time. How does your music change the more you play it in a live setting? Do you think your time on the road will influence future recordings?RP: Well, every venue has a different sound, a different crowd. Every city has a different vibe. Speaking of, I could feel you throwing vibes my way during the show. You dig my flannel, don't you?NeuB: Well, ah...I...yes. Yes I do.RP: Cool. I liked your floral sundress. It was very florally.NeuB: H&M. Do they have those in Seattle?RP: No, they don't.NeuB: One more reason why LA has got it goin' on.RP: Uh, whatever.NeuB: Right. Er. Los Angeles has a reputation for having terrible crowds. Your thoughts?RP: I love this place. This place is great! [ed. note: he really did say this during the show, so I did at least get one question answered.]NeuB: You don't say. Well, you know there's a great little bar that just opened up across the street. Want to get a beer?RP: Want to make our love eternal?NeuB: Yeah, that too.RP: You had me at man-locks.