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Friday, April 4th, 2008

Wild Mountain Nation


Photo by Frank Yang

Heading in to Wednesday night’s show at the El Mocambo, I was wondering if maybe the buzz around Seattle’s Fleet Foxes, which seemed omnipresent in my online circles over the past month or so, had been held up at the border because while there was some local press covering Portland-based headliners Blitzen Trapper leading up to the show, I was hearing nary a peep about the support act.

I wasn’t in time to catch local openers Fox Jaws but was pleasantly surprised to see that the club was quite full and obviously waiting in patient anticipation for Fleet Foxes to start. And patience was the key word as they were having some technical difficulties with the monitors and were taking their time in sorting it out. It was worth it, though, as otherwise they might not have been able to hear correctly and their four-part harmonies might have suffered and that would have been an absolute crime.

There is much to recommend Fleet Foxes – their timeless blend of British and American folk music filtered through country, soul and chamber pop styles, for example – but what strikes you first and hardest is the stunning vocal interplay. Their voices, led by songwriter Robin Peckold, were simply mesmerizing to listen to. Some have compared the band to My Morning Jacket or Band Of Horses and, while fans of those bands will surely find a lot to like in the Seattle quintet, those similarities are based largely on Peckold’s high voice and the thick blanket of reverb that cloaks their new Sun Giant EP (the self-titled debut album is out June 3). Live, you appreciate how much more delicate and intricate Fleet Foxes’ craft is – there are far fewer rock moves in their arsenal, instead choosing more spiritual musical path.

Throughout their set, the band were openly astonished at how enthusiastic the crowd was, cheering loudly for even for songs that hadn’t been officially released yet. I may not have heard the buzz and anticipation for the show, but obviously it was there. This energy made for an atmosphere of real occasion, as though everyone acknowledged that they were witnessing something pretty special, as though realizing the band is not only as good as everyone says they are, but are quite probably even better.

With this sort of praise following the tour around the continent, you might be tempted to feel sorry for Blitzen Trapper with them having to follow this act every night. But such pity is unnecessary. Though perhaps not as critically acclaimed as their tourmates at the moment – the crowd was noticeably thinner when they came out – they still know how to put on a show and bring the house down. I wasn’t especially taken with their latest record Wild Mountain Nation but, as they did when I saw them in the Fall opening for John Vanderslice, they put on a thoroughly entertaining show.

Their amalgam of roots, classic, country and psychedelic rock influences – all stored in the garage, natch – sounds like it could and should collapse at any second yet the band is simply too tight and too together to ever let that happen. The ensuing musical tug-of-war is a delight to behold. And they were funny as hell, too, with guitarist Marty Marquis paying tribute to Canada by pointing out his faded Alpha Flight t-shirt. They closed out their show in gloriously chaotic fashion with all of Fleet Foxes out on stage with them along with some fans from the audience and drummer Brian Adrian Koch deciding that one of his cymbals had outlived its usefulness and trying to put it out of its – and his – misery.

If you’re anywhere near the remaining tour dates, I highly recommend hitting the show up. It’ll be beautiful, cacophonous and all points in between, guaranteed.

Tiny Mix Tapes has an interview with Blitzen Trapper and, while a few months old, this profile on Fleet Foxes by The Stranger is worth a read.

Photos: Blitzen Trapper, Fleet Foxes @ The El Mocambo – April 2, 2008
MP3: Blitzen Trapper – “Wild Mountain Nation”
MP3: Blitzen Trapper – “Sci-Fi Kid” (Principal Participant Kingswood’ Remix)
MP3: Blitzen Trapper – “Sci-Fi Kid” (40 Thieves Remix)
MP3: Fleet Foxes – “White Winter Hymnal”
Video: Blitzen Trapper – “Devil’s A-Go-Go”
Video: Blitzen Trapper – “Wild Mountain Nation”
Video: Blitzen Trapper – “Woof & Warp of the Quiet Giant’s Hem”
MySpace: Blitzen Trapper

A very welcome addition to the June concert calendar is Lightspeed Champion’s return to town on the 11th for a show at Lee’s Palace… this time accompanied by a full band. The two-piece configuration we saw at the Horseshoe in March worked quite well, considering, but it will be great to hear the rich arrangements of Falling Off The Lavender Bridge done proper justice in a live setting. Full tour dates are here and support will be Flowers Forever, the side project from Tilly & The Wall’s Derek Presnall.

MP3: Flowers Forever – “Black Rosary”

Matmos will be at the Music Gallery on July 21.

NPR is streaming a session from Jens Lekman recorded at SxSW last month. Jens is at The Great Hall on April 8.

NOW and Commercial Appeal talk to Will Sheff of Okkervil River, who kick off their tour with The New Pornographers starts in Toronto next Wednesday night, April 9.

Chart reports that The Coast’s cross-country tour got off to a lousy start when the band’s van was burgled in Victoria and many personal effects – and frontman Ben Spurr’s clothes – were stolen. The band will be back home, hopefully fully clothed, for a record release show at the Horseshoe on April 18. Expatriate was released this week.

PopMatters asks questions of American Music Club’s Mark Eitzel, gets pithy responses. The Georgia Straight and The Province also offer up interviews. AMC are at Lee’s Palace on April 19.

Beatroute profiles The D’Urbervilles, playing the UKULA store on May 1 as part of the Over The Top Fest.

The Calgary Sun bears witness as Feist is reunited with her old Fender Mustang bass. Awwwww. Feist plays a sold out show at the Sony Centre on May 13 and will also appear on Sesame Street in the near future.

JamBase profiles British Sea Power, in town on Monday for a Beautiful Noise taping and again on May 16 for a gig at Lee’s Palace.

Matt Berninger of The National talks to Spinner about how R.E.M. soundtracked his high school days. Non-$90 tickets for their show at the Molson Amphitheatre on June 8 go on sale tomorrow at 10AM.

InsideVandy, The River City Reader and The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette talk to Jim Eno and Britt Daniel of Spoon, who have a new video and a new EP, Don’t You Evah, out April 8. Watch and stream below, respectively.

Video: Spoon – “You Got Yr. Cherry Bomb”
Stream: Spoon / Don’t You Evah

And speaking of new videos, Elbow has one from The Seldom Seen Kid, out April 22.

Video: Elbow – “One Day Like This”

Minnesota Public Radio has Headlights in their studio for a session.

Sons & Daughters kept a tour diary for Billboard during their recent North American jaunt.

By : Frank Yang at 8:27 am
Category: Uncategorized
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  1. danieljosef says:

    Wow! Super excited for the full band Lightspeed Champion show. It’s going to be amazing! Thanks for the news.

  2. Tug says:

    When Fleet Foxes playing here a few weeks ago, the monitors actually cut out completely during the first song, and after realizing that it wasn’t going to get fixed, they did the show any way, and the harmonies suffered not one bit. There was a lot of hand-held-firmly-to-one-ear going on, though. One of the best shows I’ve seen in a while.

  3. douglas martin says:

    fleet foxes are so good, i literally have to make myself not blog about them. i’ve said before that they’re the best thing to come out of seattle this year, but i take that back: they’re the best thing to come out of this town in a long, long while.

  4. Neill says:

    Wow, there’s actually a fleet foxes/blitzen trapper torrent on bt.etree.org