The Scene: In all honesty the crowd was much younger than I expected. I guess I expected that a band with a sound like The Fleet Foxes would attract a few more older folks. Their thick harmonies and folk rock sensibilities make them seem like a Crosby, Stills and Nash, America, or Buffalo Springfield of our time. I guess when those bands were in their prime, they attracted young hip crowds as well, so maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised. Maybe this should serve as a message to the 30, 40, 50 and 60 somethings reading this . . . “If you dig beautiful folk rock dripping with epic harmonies, you should check out Fleet Foxes next time they come through town. Feel free to bring your kids, chances are they will probably like it too.”
Opener: Alela Diane and Wild Devine. I arrived at the Fillmore about 10 minutes into Alela Diane’s set and in all honesty, her brand of country folk was a little bit screechy and generic for me. The songs were executed well, and there were some great harmonies, but judging by the amount of talking in the room escalated drastically as you made your way further from the stage, most people were waiting for the Fleet Foxes and they didn’t care much about the opener.
Fleet Foxes: At almost exactly 9:15 the lights went down and the six members of Fleet Foxes walked out onto the stage to deafening cheers. Without much fanfare they launched right into “The Cascades” from their recent CD Helplessness Blues. It was immediately apparent that they were on the top of their game as the instrumental interplay between the six members was playful and precise. As they moved from “Grown Ocean” to the Sun Giant track “Drops In The River” the audience got a taste of what they came for when the bands rich cathedral worthy harmonies washed over us like warm fog.
Several songs into the set, frontman Robin Pecknold finally addressed the crowd in a shy, almost sheepish voice that belied his masterful singing abilities. He made the obligatory altitude joke, and name checked Watercourse Restaurant before returning to his comfort zone of playing music. Throughout the set, the number of instruments that were played on stage was almost staggering. There was a Mandolin, an Upright Bass, a Flute, Guitars, a Piano, a Saxophone, and even a clarinet. The variety of instruments added to the rich textures of the bands sound.
While the entire hour and 45 minute set was good, there were definitely some highlights. The first came about a third of the way through the evening when the band broke into “Mykonos,” another track from their Sun Giant EP. As fans danced merrily and sang loudly all around me, the band on-stage never once failed to be the focal point of the room. They simply commanded attention in a way that made me think how perfect their music would sound between the mighty monolith’s at Red Rocks some day.
Another highlight came with the one-two punch of “White Winter Hymnal” and “Ragged Wood” from the bands self titled LP which led into one of my personal favorite tracks off Helplessness Blues, “Lorelai.” The waltz time of the later tune transported me to a pastoral scene where couples danced under a starry sky as the band played on in the background. In fact, many of the songs over the course of the evening had this pleasant effect on my mind and it was only occasionally interrupted by someone drunkenly blabbering to their friend or the loud, hot sound mix that didn’t really do justice to the richness of the bands vocals.
The band closed out their set with the tender and building ballad “Blue Ridge Mountains” and then disappeared for a very short encore break. When they returned, Pecknold performed the timeless tune “Oliver James” on his own, and in near perfect voice, as the crowd provided percussion in the form of remarkably coordinated clapping. Predictably, the group wrapped up the show with the inspirational title track from Helplessness Blues. As I walked out the front doors of The Fillmore I found myself repeating over and over, “I was following the, I was following the, I was following the . . .” and as the harmonies built in my head, I knew that Fleet Foxes had gotten under my skin a bit . . . in a very, very good way.
Stage Presence: B
Set / Light show: C