Live Review: Fleet Foxes @ Black Cat, July 7

My oh my, how Fleet Foxes has got DC all in a tizzy. The show was sold out many times over, the mainstage packed, and the air hummed with the electric buzz of excitement. The bearded, be-vested, and be-hatted Fleet Foxes spent a little while checking their own sound, and I could swear I saw one of them sipping tea. Or at least, it was a liquid enjoyed out of a tea cup. It was all so civilized. And then, the first strum, and it was lights out from there.

Now, I don’t know about you, but I am of the mindset that some things are in fact too good to be true. I was wondering if perhaps Fleet Foxes would prove that, given how bloody good their first album is. Surely, those delicate, perfectly-pitched harmonies and glorious strumming wouldn’t translate live. Or would they? The answer, friends, is a hearty yes. Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. Upon hearing their album you wouldn’t think it possible, but Fleet Foxes live proved even better than Fleet Foxes on record. Their show at the Black Cat was jaw-droppingly, earth-shatteringly, how the hell did they do that good, and I’d hazard a guess that’s the collective sentiment of everyone who was there. If not, well, obviously the dissenters have horrible taste and don’t know a thing about music.

Under a reddish glow, the band picked, strummed, and harmonized their way through nine songs, a set that seemed both too short and like it had gone on for hours. Their sound to me is like wandering in the woods in earliest spring, a hint of chill in the air but freshness and light everywhere you turn. It is woodsy, it is natural, it is of the earth. Not in the sense that they’re up there on stage communing with nature or anything, but in the way that there is absolutely nothing false about what they’re doing. They play beautifully and confidently, and the way their voices come together in harmony is something you’ve just got to experience for yourself. It’ll send shivers up your spine, at least it did to me.

My favorite Foxes song, “White Winter Hymnal,” was so gorgeous I almost couldn’t take it. The encore, featuring only mouthpiece Robin Pecknold, achieved something I’ve probably never heard while at a show in DC: complete audience silence. The collective breath of all assembled was held as Pecknold and his guitar pulled at heartstrings with his stunning voice. You could have heard a pin drop. And that, my dears, is the best example I can give of just how good this show was. How do they do it, really? How do they manage to sound so blissful? They take elements of the Band, Fleetwood Mac, and Neil Young, and meld it into something golden and warm and haunted and nearly, dare I say, perfect. Consider me part of the bandwagon, and what a lovely ride it is, and hopefully will be for a long time to come.

[Photos by Laura O’Neill]


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