Monday, February 25, 2013

Concert Review | Foxygen at Local 506 in Chapel Hill. NC


Well folks, religion failed me once again. See, I was handed this story from some divine being, which I quickly transcribed and posted to this very blog, recounting the fated evening when Jesus peer-pressured Bob Dylan and Mick Jagger into imbibing irresponsibly, having sex, thus producing offspring that would one day form Foxygen. Much like most stories that are passed down via a glorified version of the telephone game, some of the all-important details were either intentionally changed, or accidently inserted, leaving the devout faithful disappointed when they experience the literal truth.

For Foxygen, maybe the details were correct – but the hype and pressure of living up to such a legendary paternal partnership was something that was inevitably going to cause a mess. And for lack of a better word, that’s exactly what a sold-out crowd was treated to Sunday night at Local 506 -- a hot, and disappointing mess.

From the moment they walked out to the sound of the always-pleasing screech of deafening mic feedback, things were simply not good. Singer Sam France seemed completely out of it. And while his erratic movement could be entertaining to watch, his half-singing, half-mumbling delivery made any action seem like a half-assed effort fueled either by a complete lack of care for those of us who came out, or one of those drugs that annoy the shit out of anyone not on the same thing. Even the songs that are teed-up to shine live, like "No Destruction," came off like an early practice-stab. "San Francisco" was a basically a Monty Python skit, but not in a good way.

I could keep going, but really, why? Nothing changed as time stumbled on. Robes were donned, sunglasses were taken off and put back on. Mic stands fell, words were slurred or ignored completely, pointless banter was shouted. Swagger was attempted and failed miserably.

The big takeaway for me, as a person who sees his fair share of shows by buzzy-young bands who are just as green, is that truly disappointing shows happen few and far between. I’m an easy guy to please, especially when it’s a band that has recently released an album as great as We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic.

But that infrequency actually makes it worse somehow -- because I'm not some jaded blogger who is impossible to please. After spending weeks hyping up this show to friends, I unfortunately left apologizing for the shitty recommendation.

21 comments:

  1. I have read nothing but positive reviews from their other live shows. It seems like they just had an off night.

    Absolutely no need for the apology, bad shows just happen from time to time. I look forward to our next outing and hand crafted gourmet turkey burgers.

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  2. Maybe if You hadn't decreed Yours as the Word of a Divine Being in Your lame-attempt-to-be-clever original post, You wouldn't have been so disappointed. I don't know what "all-important details" you feel were "changed" or "inserted" upon the "devout"-- Dear God (the REAL one), what the fuck are you even talking about?-- but it wasn't by Foxygen. I've seen five Foxygen shows-- all different, all quirky, all varying degrees of genius UNDER CONSTRUCTION. Stay home and play their records if you don't want to risk seeing new bands who are transitioning from recording artists to performing artists as are Foxygen, particularly when the venue's equipment is as sketchy as it was last night at 506. Your pal Jimmy G is right-- it was an off night for a brilliant band. Cut 'em some slack and don't be so, as you put it, "shitty."

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  3. well we dont have a sound guy.....i wasnt on drugs
    -sam

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  4. Charles – that’s awesome you’ve seen them five times. I didn’t have that luxury Sunday night, but I can assure you that I would have factored that into the review if I had. Unfortunately I didn’t – and if you’re a regular reader of our blog, you’ll know that we pride ourselves on promoting positivity whenever we can. We don’t review albums we hate, or songs that suck. Live shows are different though, and this was a tough one for me. As someone who is quick to offer negative reviews of other’s work though, I’m sure you understand how tough it is to be objective sometimes –especially when it’s regarding something you hold dear.

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  5. Sam - congrats on We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic. You guys made a fantastic album, and the attention you’re getting from it is well deserved. I’m looking forward to experiencing your progression as a band – the sky is the limit. For real.

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  6. Unfortunately, I have the same review as Matt for the Foxygen show in Baltimore on 2/26. Total mess.

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  7. I was at the Baltimore show too. What a train wreck. Didn't even stay for the whole show it was that bad. Matt described what I saw perfectly.

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  8. Good discussion about the Baltimore show on this page. (thanks Jessica for the email and link) Check out the comments under Pietro DiGennaro's comment about drugs.

    https://www.facebook.com/events/466519443383717/

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  9. The Local 506 show was insulting and and a horrible mess. I completely agree with this review.

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  10. I just saw them at R&R Hotel in DC last night and they were solid, no drama, and Sam seemed in fine form and good spirits. They're a promising young band. Of course you want consistency in a band, but sometimes shit happens on a given night. I agree with Charles, we need to cut em some slack.

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  11. Thanks Matt - and I would agree with the "slack cutting" comment if I felt I, or the others on this thread, were being overtly mean or overly harsh.

    I offered an honest opinion, and actually edited out a few things that I felt seemed gossipy.

    So, in a way, I guess I did cut them some slack.

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  12. Why should anyone cut any band slack on a concert review? One should describe the concert through their eyes. Matt Smith did this without question. If you don't agree, so be it. However, others and myself had the same experience as Matt with this show and another. This just gives the review some merit.

    Despite the bad Chapel Hill show, I did hear brief moments where the band actually moved me. Basically, I saw their great potential. With that said, I would give them a 2nd chance if they ever perform in the area again. This is how I will cut them some slack.

    Bad reviews of your work are always hard to read. However, one should take these as suggestions on how to improve. I hope Foxygen understands this and comes to the next concert prepared! Keep your head up Foxygen.

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  13. If you have read anything about this band you know that this performing stuff is new to them. They started as a recording duo, performing live occasionally and then got sent out to tour. I've seen several shows and am impressed with the risks they take in creating music and sound and fun! Their shows can seem haphazard and that is alright with me. I like their willingness to throw everything they have and then some out into the world. Their show is not going to sound like their studio recorded music. So stay home and listen if you want it the easy way. I prefer the live energy and the "I don't know what they will do next" experience! Peace!

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  14. Who in the world said that the only possible positive outcome of a live show is for it to sound just like the recorded music? Anyone who goes to shows regularly, goes for the “live music experience” -- but there is a big difference between a band stretching their music on stage, and something that becomes horrible mess.

    If all you’re looking for is a "I don't know what they will do next" experience, then go to a 5-year old’s piano recital. Those can turn from a happy rendition of “Twinkle Twinkle” to a blathering cry-fest in no time.

    You can clap and claim brilliance - because that shit sounds nothing like that record your mom played you.

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  15. just saw them at the first unitarian church in philly. it was easily the worst show that i've ever been to. i've been listening to their work for months and was really excited to see them. when your lead singer is apologizing for his efforts on the first song, you know that there's trouble. i don't want to hear the album again. i'm sure it would be technically impossible in the tiny venues that they perform in. there was no soul. just seemed like Sam France was play acting and the band looked embarrassed. i will keep listening to the album. but that show was a punch in the stomach.

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  16. I was hesitant to see Foxygen here in New York last week. It seems people love their music, people hate their music. People say their shows are amazing, people say their shows are a mess. I'd read Matt's review here, then heard their show in Washington, D.C. was great. (In fact, The Vinyl District has a glowing critique online now of the Washington show that mentions Matt's review.) And I have to say that Foxygen absolutely slayed at the packed Bowery Ballroom, and a friend who saw them at the hastily-scheduled and sold out midnight gig at Pianos said they were just as incredible.

    Clearly this young, formerly recording-only duo who play everything on their albums is making the transition to an act with a band onstage. But the live sound, while different than the record, was awesome. And the crowd loved how Sam France and the band risked interaction, daring to be spontaneous and goofy between songs, not knowing if it would lead somewhere or nowhere. So much more engaging than the standard "Thank you, how we doin' tonight, (fill in tonight's city here)?" I can see how on a bad night this approach might seem amateurish, but that night it was electric and fun.

    I'm not excusing any lack of professionalism, and I could see how an off night could easily be the result of this approach, not to mention that of a band new to performing live and touring to promote a record (and an amazing one that's thrust a shitload of attention on them, at that). That would be very disappointing to witness. Still, I have a feeling anyone going to see Foxygen might be experiencing the genesis of a band that may be very special.

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  17. show was a wreck in Bloomington, IN.
    i felt cheated.

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  18. Saw them in Bloomington, IN this past Friday night. Was easily the worst live performance I've ever seen. I've been going to shows since the early 90's and was shocked by what I witnessed. To me it seemed the whole band was high as a kite. Lead singer would stay to speak between songs and then trail off and try to pick back up 30 seconds later seeking confused about where he was.

    Oh and the constant shifting of the reverb on the mics was terribly annoying. In the end I walked outside of the venue for about 15 minutes and missed a good chunk of the performance. I'd also note the staff at the venue seemed embarrassed by what was going on.

    Sad as their latest album is great.

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  19. I just read this comment. I saw foxygen thursday nigbt in Toronto and it was a mess. Everything you mentioned and more happened. We actually left the show halfway through due to the disappointing performance. People were pouring out of the bar in sheer and utter disappointment. They seemed incredibly unprepared and the lead singer seemed doped up. I will never support this band again, and it is a shame since the album really is awesome.

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  20. I thought it might shed new light to say that their show at Wilco's Solid Sound festival last night was on par with the Local 506 and Baltimore shows. I too went in as a huge fan of the album, and was very disappointed to find the lead singer an absolute mess. He seemed as though he was trying to make us believe in his ramblings and theatrics, while he himself likely barely believes it.

    I disagree that we need to cut bands like this slack. They have a great record and it was embarrassing, frankly.

    In a related story, Wilco's Jeff Tweedy casually mentioned to the crowd that he introduced himself to the band, simply saying, "Hi, I'm Jeff." Sam France replied, "Cool man. Jeff who?" Perhaps when you play a show with a band as well known as Wilco, you should figure out who their lead singer is.

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