We had the pleasure of seeing the Fleet Foxes last time they were in DC a mere 3 months ago. They were opening for Blitzen Trapper at the Blackcat Backstage and we all agreed that they stole the show from the headliners. They were now returning for another dose of their alt-folk in the midst of the summer heat, however this time it was as headliners in a sold out BC main stage - on a Monday night nonetheless. Luckily, Potsy procured tickets for us in advance and the three of us (plus Mrs. Sacklunch) got there in time to check out openers The Dutchess and The Duke.
Jumboslice has already reported on this guy-girl duo (plus one semi-useless tambourine/maraca dude) in his Review/Preview of the very same show last week in Austin. I thought they were fine, though there were some technical problems with the lead guitar. Also, we all thought the Duke looked a lot like Jack Black (with a little Chip Chanko thrown in). The stand out track for me was "Reservoir Park" which we heard earlier on WOXY that day. It has a nice 60's garage sound and Jimbromski said it reminded him of early Stones.
Fleet Foxes came on around 10:30 to a large and enthusiastic crowd, most of whom were probably there due to lots of positive press, a highly favorable Pitchfork review, and of course, Jumboslice's shining endorsement from last week. Beforehand, I was kind of worried that the intimacy of the back stage show was going to be ruined by the chatty crowd and the active bars on the main stage. However, everyone seemed to quiet down for the most part once they started playing. When they performed here in the spring, lead singer Robin Pecknold announced that he was really sick (although you couldn't really tell by the performance). Well he was sick this time around as well and it definitely showed. He was drinking copious amounts of water between songs and coughing a fair amount. As much as I admire them for pressing on and playing through the sick, it seemed to slow the show down quite a bit. The breaks between songs were sometimes painfully long, due to the coughing, water drinking, and what looked like general fatigue. They tried to fill the gaps with unintelligible banter that fell flat. (Note to bands: if you are going to banter, then make sure the entire audience can hear what you are saying. Also be funny or interesting, or don't say anything at all.) This in turn caused the crowd to talk and in my mind disrupted the flow of the show. I think when they opened for Blitzen Trapper, they had like 35 minutes to get their point across and they did it well. Here not so much. That being said, when they did play, they played well. Standout tracks for me included "White Winter Hymnal", "Drops in the River", and a slightly slowed down version of "Mykonos". Even when ill, Pecknold has an excellent voice and he showcased it well on 2 acoustic numbers, a cover of Judee Sill's "Crayon Angels" (seen here from The Black Cab Sessions) which moved into "Oliver James". The crowd was pretty much dead quiet during these two numbers and it was at this point that Potsy offered Jimbromski a whopping $10 to scream out "TWO PRINCES". This of course being a reference to Pecknolds similarity to Chris Barron of Spin Doctors fame (due to the wool hat, more about the hat later...)
They ended with "Blue Ridge Mountains" which I think is one of the standout tracks from their debut LP. Peckhold did come back out for a solo encore which he played quite well (I can't remember the song though...) and seemed to have had enough. Although it was a relatively short set, I think they managed fairly well, though the show wasn't without its problems. I thought the drums were a bit too over-miked (not sure if that is a word?) and I thought the vocals were lost in the mix at times. A decent night out, slightly disappointing at times, very good at others and the Fleet Foxes get a solid 6.8 rating from Sacklunch for this show.
Other points of interest/musings:
1. Again, even though this has already been covered, why the fuck are you wearing a wool cap in the middle of July? I have a theory that the reason this dude is sick all the time is because of the cap. The space between the top of the cap and his grimy, hippie hair forms an incubator or petri dish for disease caring germs and bacteria, thus the constant illness. Another theory is that the bacteria found in their sound engineers beard could also migrate and cause illness (this dude had full-on ZZ Top style beard growth)
2. I think the band made some comment about being sick and "conning" show goers at their last couple of appearances. Some jackass in the crowd yells out "THAT NEVER HAPPENS IN DC!" (in regards to the conning, ... get it?). Dude, keep the political comedy to yourself. It was completely unfunny, however it did get a chuckle out of a few audience members. We all know how unhip DC is already, why make it worse by yelling out some lame comment. Douchebag.
3. As I finish up this review, I just got email from Jimbromski with his $.02 on the show. To paraphrase: "This is music to bake bread to..", "that shit's not rock", and "fuck these guys". While I agree that it is not "rock", I did enjoy the show (and you did too, last time we saw them...). Sometimes I am in the mood for this kind of show (last night I was), other times I am not (i.e. Gob Iron). It was a Monday night and I was feeling melancholy, so I didn't mind the folkiness of the show (apparently Jimbromski did). To each his own.