This was the third time I've seen Fleet Foxes.
I had seen their name all over town and never knew what kind of band they were, just that they were local and played a lot of gigs. Then, when their amazing EP The Sun Giant came out and I listened to it almost to the exclusion of anything else, I was like, "God, I need to go see these local boys!" By then though, they were on a national tour, and weren't coming back to Seattle for months. As an opener for another band (Blitzen Trapper) no less.
I bought tickets that day, and when the day finally came I was pretty excited. The club was packed for the Foxes and they played a short opener set with songs from the EP and a couple of the songs from the upcoming self-titled LP. The sound seemed muddy and they just didn't seem to have that same precision and beauty as on their recording. Locals turned out in droves for them that night, though, and emptied out when Blitzen Trapper came on, sadly.
Finally, the LP came out, and it was a stunner. Pitchfork gave it a 9.0 and for a long time it was the best selling album in local record shops for a while, and had a resonable billboard chart position. The next time I saw them was at possibly their biggest gig yet, the Capitol Hill Block Party main stage.
They kinda sucked. Pecknold came onstage smoking for the soundcheck and looked like he didn't give much of a crap. When they came on they seemed not to know how to deal with a big crowd, and their stage banter was pathetically ametuerish, "Wow. This is a lot of people. We don't know what we'd say that would apply to everyone here. Uhhh… we're in Capitol Hill?" Right. Uhhh, I don't know… talk about the actual songs?"
Then, Robin barely could hit his notes, the the band sounded sloppy and uncaring. These are pretty simple songs, all in all, and the feeling of intricacy that comes through on the album is partially from the precision they project in their changes and harmonies. They didn't really bring it.
But… I had a feeling, when I heard they were playing at the very large Seattle venue, the Moore, an old theater, that they were going to sink or swim. They were the stars of the show, and they'd had a chance to get used to their sudden fame. It was a hometown show, and I felt like if they were going to step up to the plate and be the superstars I knew they were capable of being, they would need to step their game up a hair.
Well, I'm happy to report that the Moore show was one of the best live shows I have ever seen. Gone was the painful self-consciousness. They seemed to have come into their own. They bantered sweetly and self depricatingly with the audience, who hung on their every word. They name-dropped celebrities they now brush elbows with, and then made fun of themselves for doing it for the rest of the night.
They came up with clever bon mot's for just about everything a member of the audience yelled, and gave props to all their grade school teachers in the audience. Someone shouted at the beginning, "You guys rock!" and Robin said in response, "And we haven't even started playing yet." It's fair to say they sparkled. Oh yeah, and they played their amazing songs.
It was a phenomenal performance. Their recorded precision came through, and Robin sang with a power and fluidity that stunned everyone and actually gave me chills. To get a sense of Robin's vocal power, he came out alone at first for the encore, and sang a song at the edge of the stage… without amplification.
I was near the back of the first balcony and I could hear him clear as a goddamn bell.
They sounded like superstars. Please come out with another album, Fleet Foxes.