New ‘n’ National | Foxygen | Brighton Music Hall | 5/7/13
By: Cassandra Chernin
“The lead singer of Foxygen is crazy.”
On a stunning May 7th, I headed over to the Brighton Music Hall for the first time to listen to Foxygen. I first heard their newest album, “We are the 21st Century Ambassadors for Peace and Magic” while sitting in my cubicle at work and was immediately hooked. Foxygen’s songs are reminiscent of another time, a retro-rock with psychedelic influences. It’s an album that you can be enjoying the background beats, and guitar licks so much that you have to listen a few times to even get the words (which are equally as important).
The opener was a band called Crumbs, hailing from Australia, whom I hadn’t had time to listen to before the show. They came on in matching creepy clown shirts with black lapels and buttons. The drummer (and lead singer) was rocking an ironic? red cowboy hat and the lead guitarist was rocking an impressive beard. You could tell Crumbs was influenced by the same retro-rock that had influenced Foxygen but hadn’t really figured out how to master their sound. In actuality, they will on this tour learn a ton from Foxygen and it’ll be great when the figure it all out. For right now, they tried to combine all the classic elements of the 60s and 70s and we were left with a ton of screaming and a band lacking in harmonic and musical elements.
Crowds started moving in after Crumbs left but still after a good forty minutes of stage changes, we were still waiting for Foxygen. The sold out show slowly filled to the brim and the heat started. An erie and Game of Thrones-esque intro song played as the stage darkened, and Foxygen emerged in all their 70s glory. The lead singer, Sam France, was wearing an impressive almost red velvet button down that flared at the pants, equally flared. Jonathan Rabo, his partner in crime, was sporting a super shiny button down and a top hat. They were joined onstage by Shaun Fleming on the drums, and two members from Crumbs playing guitar and bass.
France started the show, “This is the heartbreak 2013 tour. We are going to sing some song about emotions…and some about signs”.
He continued to ramble on about a cult and some witchcraft while the band worked to fix the broken bass. After a walk off and then a re-walk on (sans musical intro), Foxygen finally began.
They immediately changed from the calm band I had heard on the album. While there are full guitar solos and screaming on the album, the intensity Foxygen had on stage couldn’t be relayed into a recording. France was fantastic. His weird quirky hand motions, ability to change his voice from incredibly high, to super low as we are really shown in one of their hits “No Destruction”, and his interactions with the crowd made him in my mind, a perfect performer They played some “older” stuff from ‘Take The Kids Off Broadway’ which was made in 2011 with France and Rado during an NY trip that produced that slightly crazy and heavily influenced album by the Stones. Their full length album produced a much more refined sound that made Foxygen one of the bands to watch at SXSW.
Fans loved when they played “On Blue Mountain” as one of their first few songs. singing along with the chorus “I need it. I need it. I need it. I need it.”. The intro notes to their first single, “Shuggie”, came to roaring applause. The entire crowd at this point broke into a dance party during “If you believe in yourself you can free your soul” where the beat picks up and singing along.
France jumped around the stage, playing multiple instruments, sometimes singing, and sometimes just talking the lyrics. He had an immense stage presence, you were drawn to look at him, to watch him, and to really embrace who he was as a performer and a person. His jokes, proclaiming “Wait, guys, can you quiet down for a bit…oh wait no this is really loud,” before a full out jam session made him feel like your friend.
During one jam, France went to bang the cymbal as the drummer Shaun asked “What song are we playing” and purposely knocked over half his drum set. He played the rest of the song with half a set. Foxygen was a fun on stage.
Don’t forget their 70s influence: France continued to to preach that “It’s all about love, that’s the only thing that really feels real” despite his insistence that his heart was broken. After that proclamation, it was no surprise that the new song they played seemed to be more subdued and emotional. Lyrics included “don’t you know it’s not the same now” seemed to be about a particularly harsh break up.
The encore wailing encouraged the crowd to do some intense head banging by the crowd. Due to the schizo influenced stage performance by France and a fantastic sound from the drummer and the guitarist, Foxygen knocked this performance out of the park.
As Sam France didn’t heist to say, “We (as in you, and me, and the whole crowd) are the 21st century ambassadors of peace and magic.”