Last night I biked from my home in a Southern part of Brooklyn to the Williamsburg Waterfront to see The Walkmen and Fleet Foxes play the final show of this outdoor summer festival. When I arrived, I barreled my way right to the front of the pit and thought it was unusual that people just cooly let me slide by until i was only 10 feet away from the stage. Upon closer examination of the crowd in my vicinity, I realized they were mostly sporting braces, colored hair and ….parent chaperones. It seems that the “cool” thing for people in their mid-20’s to do is hang around by the Brooklyn Brewery tent. As per usual, I missed the “if you’re cool, hang back” memo and I chilled with the teenagers all night. There were lots of hair colors,
The Walkmen were up first with a 45-minute or so set as the sun went down behind us.
Now, it’s probable that this just isn’t really my type of music but, my feeling was that most of their set was a bit uninspired. They looked slick and polished, which I really appreciate; they wore black suits, they were groomed, they looked sexy, just like an indie rock band should.
But I didn’t feel their music. The choruses were too repetitive with the musical motifs being too similar to each other and, overall, it just didn’t get me going. They mentioned that they were at the end of a 30-day tour with Fleet Foxes, so that could account for the lack of energy, however if you’re a musician today, that’s really a pretty standard way of life, you have to find some way to keep your fans excited to shell out $30+ to come and see you. There were some good moments, towards the end the music picked up and I finally felt like they were stoked to be there and the tempo of their songs picked up as well.
When Fleet Foxes came out, the screams from the highschoolers around me were actually a bit terrifying. I had to drop my camera (on a string around my neck, thank god) and plug my ears as a sixteen-year-old boy behind me shouted “FUCK YEAH” over and over again behind me. I feel like there are other phrases that denote excitement in a less abrasive way but, that’s just me. I was lucky to see FF once before three years ago at The Echo in Echo Park in Los Angeles and wow, was this a different experience. The Echo is a tiny little venue that feels a lot like someone’s parents’ garage. It was a really memorable show, they completely filled up the space with sound and I was mesmerized. Since I last saw this band, a few new members have been added and everyone has had a haircut and a shave.
Everything about this performance was wonderful. Their enthusiasm was communicated without being at all over the top and their energy drew the audience in. The projections on the screen behind them were understated and very beautiful, often focusing on geometric shapes with stars in the background. This band is my ideal when it comes to music. They have described themselves as “Baroque folk” and listening to the chord progressions, that’s absolutely true. There are moments in this music where J.S. Bach must be giggling to himself. The sounds are so lush and full, with everyone doing at least double duty; everyone plays at least one instrument and sings. I saw a flute, upright bass, saxophone, mandolin, piano, and lap steel and these were in addition to an upright piano, full drum kit, two electric guitars and an acoustic. With 5-6 people singing at any given time, I felt less like I was at a concert and more like I was at a religious gathering from the future, where we all worship triangles, apple trees and mountains.
J. Tillman, the drummer of Fleet Foxes and a solid solo musician with 7 albums to his name spoke the most throughout the evening, at one point asking us, “Did everyone have a nice brunch today? Everyone was eating fucking BRUNCH this morning! What a to do!” How true sir, New Yorkers do tend to take their weekend brunches very seriously. An astute observation. They played a very long set and when they came out for an Encore, lead singer Robin Pecknold grabbed a fresh mug of hot throat coat tea (a man after my own heart)
and played a new song for us, which I have for you here. If this is illegal, it will come down pretty fast, if it’s not, enjoy!
And afterwards, I turned around to face the East River and saw this
and I stumbled over to my bike and listened to Fleet Foxes on my iPod as I sang all the way home.