Seattle-based folk band Fleet Foxes played for its faithful legion (“the best audience ever,” they claimed after a third and final standing ovation) Friday night at the sold-out Ryman Auditorium. The evening’s expected attire—plaid and skinny jeans for the boys, and ruffled skirts for the girls—included a noteworthy addition: attendees were equipped with umbrellas after a steady rain fell minutes before showtime.
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Though the weather could’ve been better, the atmosphere inside the building was warm and friendly. Lead singer Robin Pecknold had little trouble marching through their 90-minute set, offering the heartfelt reflections of a heavy thinker. The scrawny 25-year-old comes off as a considerate, pleasant fellow near surrender to life’s difficulties, only to discover the value in his own voice through these sunny melodies. Songs like “Drops in the River” and “Sim Sala Bim” were buoyant and brimming with optimism. But as confident as Pecknold’s performance was, he still expressed giddy sense of awe at playing the hallowed venue. His unpretentious, even bashful stage banter had a sweet and magnetic hold on the vociferous crowd.
The Fleet Foxes’ audience has grown in recent months, with their new album Helplessness Blues debuting at No. 4 on the Billboard Top 200 upon its release last month. It’s an ambitious song cycle that will surely please the ADD listener—zany, unpredictable, but ultimately grounded by its timeless harmonies and universal emotions. The critical hosannahs of their 2008 eponymous debut have seemingly encouraged the band to try even more weird and wacky instrumentation—maracas, tambourines, washboard were all featured prominently—to satisfy their musical muse.
This sextet’s talent was on full display; from Morgan Henderson (who joined Fleet Foxes in January) on upright bass to Skyler Skjelset on electric guitar, all parts worked seamlessly with these richly evocative songs. As Pecknold’s feelings spilled out all over the place, the taut musicianship grounded his poignant musings and gave them added meaning. With the charming harmonies of a church choir, he and his bandmates deftly handled audience favorites “Montezuma” and “Helplessness Blues.” Extra cheers came when they segued into “Blue Ridge Mountains,” a generous ode to a gentler, simpler time and place.
The Cave Singers, another Seattle-bred outfit, performed a crisp 35-minute set that served as a fitting appetizer to the main course. The three-piece band is led by Pete Quirk, whose hearty baritone expressed power and perseverance despite the problems posed in their songs.
(All photos by Katie Chow)
The Cave Singers