Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Fleet Foxes / Blitzen Trapper @ Black Cat Backstage

With G.L. and Rob using the tired excuse "my parents drove 762 miles to see me so I should probably hang out with them", I was the sole Rockist to venture the wilds of the Black Cat backstage last night for the enticing Pacific Northwest double bill of Blitzen Trapper and Fleet Foxes. I had interviewed Marty of Blitzen Trapper -- for those of you at the show, the taller fellow on the right with very curly hair who played a variety of instruments -- for DCist last week in preparation for the show, and G.L. has often spoken of the band's live strengths.

Not to mention of course, that Rob picked up Fleet Foxes' debut Sun Giant EP and confirmed the universally excellent reviews these guys are getting. Marty himself had even lauded them numerous times in our interview, emphasizing that they were not to be missed. I'd agree. The EP's title track, done a cappella as it is on record, and was as striking and bold a statement of purpose as you're going to get from a band of chamber pop aficianados. The multiple part harmonies seemed more involved than they really were -- the small room, strong pipes, or some crafty doctoring techniques made just a couple voices sound like half a dozen -- and all those Crosby, Stills, and Nash allusions seemed appropriate. But as someone who's familiar with the majority of their catalog (for better or worse), for me the clearest touchstone is David Crosby's solo debut, If I Could Only Remember My Name. It's an album that's propped up by a couple strong, folky tunes, but succeeds by creating a lush atmosphere with warm, thick vocal harmonies and a laid-back, singalong vibe. It's a true Rockist album -- rare, underappreciated, imperfect, but not hard to love if given the chance. Of course, us here in the blogosphere will no doubt ensure that you have that chance with Fleet Foxes; you'd be wise not to pass it up.

I've already written a novel by blog standards, but a few quick words about Blitzen Trapper. About as affable and laid-back an indie rock troupe as you'll see (not unlike fellow Northwesterners The Long Winters in that regard), they performed a really strong and varied set. They began with "Devils-A-Go-Go" and then promptly took it down a notch with a mostly solo tune from lead singer Eric Easley about cocaine. Something was wrong with Marty's acoustic guitar early on, but it seemed to kinda get fixed during "Summer Town". An excellent new, poppier tune led into the set's strongest moment, "Furr", the title track from their upcoming September release. A Dylanesque stomp introduced as a song "about space travel and the jungle", it went over very well with the sold out Backstage crowd. I also really enjoyed "Jericho", a classic Neil Young-inspired midtempo rocker with Marty on lead. Naturally, "Country Caravan" had an extra bounce in its step, and the closing "Woof & Warp at the Quiet of the Giant's Hem" was like a mid-90s Flaming Lips outtake. Suffice it to say, I enjoyed it, my girlfriend enjoyed it, the crowd seemed to like it (until the encore) -- there was something for everybody.

Fleet Foxes - "Mykonos"
Blitzen Trapper - "Jericho"

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