Archive for Fleet Foxes

SXSW Day One: The Class, and the Craziness

Posted in Review with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 15, 2012 by 30daysout

Ladies and gentlemen, Eric Burdon!

AUSTIN – There is nothing gradual or tentative about the South by Southwest (SXSW) music conference; you jump in and either start swimming madly or you just drown. We tried to make a schedule for Wednesday, the first full day of the music madness, but it stayed folded in a pocket for the duration. We saw more than one couple frantically flipping through the Austin Chronicle or an official SXSW book (like a large catalog, really) for guidance, and looking more and more drowned by the minute.

Polly Parsons

Just get the sneakers workin’, and we did – to discover a swell group, A Classic Education. With a swirling and darting style reminiscent of the Smiths, this unit charmed a small crowd in a small bar. People came in for the free booze, and they left with sweet melodies ringing in their ears.

We flitted from venue to venue until we decided to make a stand in the parking lot of the colorful San Jose Hotel, to enjoy a musical lineup and help launch the Gram Parsons Foundation. Organized by Gram’s daughter Polly, who is now an Austin resident, the Foundation aims to support musicians and artists worldwide with addiction and recovery services. Wednesday’s party at the ever-popular South by San Jose event was a swell way to announce the Foundation’s good work.

Gram, who envisioned a mix of rock, folk, blues and country as “Cosmic American Music,” surely smiled on the offerings of Poor Moon, comprising Christian Wargo and Casey Wescott (Fleet Foxes, Crystal Skulls) and brothers Ian and Peter Murray (The Christmas Cards). While certainly adept instrumentally – Wescott and one of the Murrays bounced continuously between xylophone, guitar, keyboards and various percussion – and vocally, Poor Moon’s songs lacked a bit of focus and foundation. While the Fleet Foxes’-styled harmonies were beautiful, we wanted a hook or two to hang our hats on.

Cory Chisel, left, and Brendan Benson

Ask, and ye shall receive: in the form of Cory Chisel and the Wandering Sons, who came out blistering with a sweet blend of country and rock. Cory has it all: great songs, an engaging style and, in his own words, “the best-looking band anywhere.” From Wisconsin, Chisel’s heartland rock is best spotlighted on his debut album Death Won’t Send A Letter, which he recorded with members of the Raconteurs, the Dead Weather and My Morning Jacket. Cory promises a sophomore release this summer, but in the meantime he and his crack touring unit have captured many hearts early on at SXSW.

Brendan Benson, himself a part-time Raconteur, stepped up next and he delivered with some deft heartland rock. At one point he said “I can’t believe I’m saying this but, ladies and gentlemen, please welcome Eric Burdon!” And there he was – former lead singer of the Animals, resplendent in black and white (hair), electrifying the crowd with “When I Was Young.” Burdon’s appearance was like a thumb in a light socket, but at two songs, all too brief.

Eric Burdon

We plunged ahead into the dark, and downtown Austin, only to stumble upon our old buddy and Houston homie Al Staehely and his band the Explosives. Staehely and his brother John (also present in the Explosives) were replacement members of the 1970s version of the seminal California prog/psychedelic rockers Spirit. At age 66, Al is in fine voice and John squeezed out some fiery leads on guitar. After working the crowd into a lather, Al said “let’s do a couple from Spirit” and launched into a rockin’ cover of Randy California’s “I Got A Line On You.”

Al Staehely, who in the daytime is an entertainment lawyer in Houston, told us he had virtually retired from performing in 1985 when his son Christian was born. “I figured I should be a full-time lawyer, and only played at home,” he said. “Really, it was Freddie Krc (former drummer for Jerry Jeff Walker and leader of the Freddie Steady 5) who got me started again. We would do a gig here and there and finally I just jumped back in all the way … it’s a lot of fun.”

What a way to rock us out of the evening. Today, we’re headed over to catch a keynote address by one Mr. Bruce Springsteen, who made his presence known Wednesday by jumping onstage with Alejandro Escovedo, Joe Ely and Garland Jeffreys for four songs. Later on this evening, Springsteen and the E Street Band will perform at the spankin’ new ACL Live venue, just across the river from the hallowed ground of the old Armadillo World Headquarters where Bruce made his first Austin splash back in 1974.

Nice shoes Al. Wait, are those really shoes?

Live: Fleet Foxes, Austin

Posted in Review with tags , , , on May 11, 2011 by 30daysout

Fleet Foxes' harmonies carried the day at Stubb's. (Photo by Lily Angelle)

Editor’s Note: Right in the middle of finals, Austin correspondent Lily Angelle blew off some steam and attended the Fleet Foxes show at Stubb’s on Tuesday night.

Pretty much every square inch of the outdoor venue at Stubb’s BBQ in Austin was packed last night to catch Fleet Foxes, whose new album Helplessness Blues is a magnificent piece of work.

With a rousing opening set from The Cave Singers, interrupted by a short rainstorm blowing much-needed gusts of wind into the smoky crowd, Fleet Foxes took the stage around 8:45 to accommodate a live video/audio stream on NPR. Opening with “The Cascades” off their new album, the audience quieted to hear the Foxes’ otherworldly guitar melodies.

The bearded bunch went on to play favorites like “He Doesn’t Know Why” and “Mykonos,” harmonizing beautifully and proving just how cool it can be to sing about forests and mountains. The group switched instruments frequently, incorporating the flute, cello, maracas and tambourine into certain songs.

Robin Pecknold's pre-show moment of repose (Photo by Jave Del Rosario)

One of my favorites was “Blue Spotted Tail” off the new album. Robin Pecknold performed with such heartfelt magnanimity that it was easy to forget your surroundings and just let the music absorb you. It was distracting, however, when fans awkwardly tried to sing along to every long, drawn-out harmony- I heard a lot of bad falsettos coming from the crowd around me.

We accosted Robin, as he was hanging out behind Stubb’s before the show; he said the Fleet Foxes are returning to Austin in September to play the Austin City Limits Music Festival.

Fleet Foxes official website