Monday, May 16, 2011

Fleet Foxes - The Cave Singers -- DAR Constitution Hall - May 15 2011

The Cave Singers - Hmmmm... Three guys in beards on drums and a couple of guitars, opening for the Fleet Foxes. Sounds like they could sound like a few thousand other bands in this day and age with an Americana-blues-singer/songwriter style, cliche all the way. But wait, giving this a fair listen, I quickly readjust my cynicism into accepting an increasingly interesting sound coming my way. Yes, there is only so much originality here, but the talent is there and the songs are good. More importantly still is they wrap in some of my favorite influences into the mix. The one vocalist (despite the plural nature of their band name) has a voice like Pearls Before Swine's Tom Rapp (without the lisp) and the music comes off like 16 Horsepower. I would also liken them to Elliott Brood, who I enjoy quite a bit as well. This is good company as the music is vibrant, sometimes dark, with some bite and purpose to it.  In this genre, you can lean back on your heals and lament or lean forward and dig in with something to say. This band leans toward the latter which works for me and worked for the growing crowd tonight. Why so many people came late on a Sunday night is beyond me, but once everyone settled, they were quite supportive of this solid band.
Fleet Foxes

Fleet Foxes - Generally I really do not care who is at the top of the charts or who has the critical buzz this week. However, I do feel I have to pay a little bit attention and try to sample those bands that seem to both gain critical accolades and sell plenty of product and tickets. Fleet Foxes was one of those bands that I quickly enjoyed and I believe only the Decemberists would rank any higher on my small list of critical darling/fan friendly bands. There is just something about the combination of songwriting and arrangement that works for this band. So I am interested to see how it translates to the big stage, as they have quickly moved well above the 9:30 Club. The beginning instrumental number was a magical Pentangle-like moment with double bass, three guitars, drums and mandolin. They then went into their songs where vocal work is the key. I knew harmonies were important to the band, but seeing the three and four-part harmonies performed so well and so frequently really did confirm how good this band is. They also switched around instruments where they had either no bass, or two basses, bowed basses and guitars, flute, sax, keyboards and mandolin switched mid-song, etc. During the sax song, the keyboardist was playing what sounded like a mellotron. I don't hear this combination at all, unless I am playing my King Crimson discs at home. With just two albums out, they played plenty of songs from both in their set (short of 90 minutes prior to a couple of encores including Pecknold's solo "Oliver James"). "Your Protector" is my favorite song and they captured that mysterious undulating beat well tonight. The material from the new album sounded good and added to the variety that the band produces nicely. Robin Pecknold clearly leads the way and has an engaging personality. The drummer and key vocalist, Joshua Tillman, offers a very droll wit to nicely offset Pecknold's looser, hippier style. The crowd was entranced throughout the set, and although the band did not blow my mind, they did pull me into their songs and created a great landscape to explore tonight.

Quote of the Night: There were a lot of tuning jokes from the Foxes and the crowd, hence Tillman's... "No one understands the meta-spectacle we are trying to do with the tuning. It's like a reverse spectacle. We need to get jumbotrons showing everyone's hands tuning."

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