Beer and Pavement

Fleet Foxes

Posted in Live by SM on July 20, 2011

Some bands can’t help the kind of audience they attract. Of course, if you choose to make certain kinds of music, you get what you deserve. Play silly pop-punk; you get the Hot Topic set. Play drugged out shoegaze; you get artsy-fartsy followers. Play anything jammy or rootsy…

Fleet Foxes are no different. They attract a certain crowd, especially now that they’re a know quantity. Pitchfork buzz and Sub Pop marketing has allowed them a status typically reserved for My Morning Jacket or Band of Horses. Every college bro knows who Fleet Foxes is. And despite the fact that Fleet Foxes hasn’t reached the depths of college rock aridity, they are just feel-good and jammy enough to attract a whole lot o’ bros.

I witnessed this Monday night at the Uptown Theater in Kansas City. One would assume a bearded band lauded by Pitchfork would attract only bearded boys who read Pitchfork, but one would be wrong. I saw more beards last week in a tiny club the tenth the size of the Uptown in DC when I had the pleasure of witnessing Bill Callahan and all his non-bro glory than I did Monday night. It may have been the crazy hot temperatures we’ve had this year, but there weren’t a lot of beards, not as many as you’d think. There was, however, a shit-ton of cargo shorts and summer dresses. That’s right, even Pitchfork darlings attract Joe and Joann College when they play jammy, down-home music with falsetto and harmonies galore.

The heat generated by all the bromance in the air and stench of Axe body spray failing to cover up all the BO was too much for me. I retreated to the lobby to listen about two or three songs before the end. And listening was all I needed to do to enjoy the night.

Fleet Foxes are the real thing in terms of transferring that stirring sound on record to the live stage. Even with voices weary from the road, the band was able to recreate the beauty contained on their 2+ albums of work. Aside from the mentioned voice fatigue, if frontman Robin Pecknold could ever get a guitar to work correctly, the performance would have been flawless.

I know that I shouldn’t base my feelings for a concert on the audience, but it’s hard when you spend a show among them, separated from the band. I won’t write off Feet Foxes because of this. Hell, despite what I suggested above, I don’t lump them in with the vanilla roots of My Morning Jacket and the slowly fading Band of Horses. No, Fleet Foxes are much better songwriters and craftsman than those bands. However, if they continue to attract the same kinds of crowds, I don’t know that I’ll be seeing Fleet Foxes again. I may have to join the cynics and cranks who hate the sort of thing they do. These critics will tell me “I told you so” and I’ll have to admit they were right. Still, Fleet Foxes is not a shitty college jam band. Monday night proved that. I think.

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  1. Pizza Cottontail said, on July 20, 2011 at 8:11 am

    I still think their new album is something of a train wreck but I feel your pain: I hate that feeling when you’re wondering if an event that was marketed to the wrong demographic or if you’re on the fringes of that demographic anyway.

    In the crowd’s defense, Kansas City isn’t known for its fashion sense.

    • builderofcoalitions said, on July 20, 2011 at 9:13 am

      I really don’t know where you get that assessment of the album. It’s actually their second “draft” as they threw out the first version before starting all over.

      What a band’s demographic usually tells me is that they’ll either be a band I’ll follow for a while or not. Monday’s show suggests FF will go in a direction I won’t want to follow.

      You might be right about KC’s fashion sense.

      • Pizza Cottontail said, on July 20, 2011 at 9:40 am

        I tried to give the album a chance but I got turned off after a few listens. The first line–something like “Now I am older than my mother and father when they had their daughter. What does that say about me?”–sums up everything I found wrong with the album: it seems to want to say something important but can’t get past the writer’s personal hangups. And with the folksy backdrop, the album sounds like a singalong led by the most wizened hippie at the campfire.

        Whether I like to admit it or not, I’m with you on the demographic thing. It’s a shame but yeah, in my experience, that (along with whether the merch table has a credit card machine) is the best indicator of the degree of pandering on the band’s next album.

      • builderofcoalitions said, on July 20, 2011 at 11:01 am

        I don’t blame a band for pandering. We all have to make that paper. I just won’t be buying what they’re selling.

  2. abby dubisar said, on July 20, 2011 at 9:38 am

    I wonder if the show attracted a lot of Johnson Co/Kansas folks. Hmm.
    How’s your own beard doing?
    Did you have time to check out the new KC Trader Joe’s?

    • builderofcoalitions said, on July 20, 2011 at 9:51 am

      I shaved it in February or March.

      No. Just went to the show and came home.

      • Carrie the Destroyer said, on July 20, 2011 at 10:36 pm

        I stopped by one of the new KC TJ’s locations on monday on my way to work since I was running ahead of schedule. It looked like the apocalypse was about to happen–no food on the shelves, people everywhere, lines up your ass and through your intestines. I’m gonna wait for it to die down before I go back, but it was like these people had never seen groceries before.

        And KC is kind of bro-tastic. You can see cargo shorts everywhere around here, especially given the weather.

        Your comments regarding jo and joann college and the pitchfork scene were interesting to me because I think that anymore jo and joann college are buzzband followers–college rock as we know it is picking this kind of stuff up. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear FF on mainstream “alt” radio in the coming months, honestly. I’m really tired so I can’t quite articulate my thoughts right now, but I hope you get what I’m saying: this is gaining presence in the mainstream, basically. Pitchfork isn’t where you go to find out about undergroundish new bands anymore–it’s where you go to see what’s on the upswing. They’ve become the tastemakers.

      • builderofcoalitions said, on July 20, 2011 at 11:17 pm

        I know what you’re saying, Carrie, and it happened years ago. Still, the music is good. What it attracts? Not so much. Thanks for stopping by to say hi.

      • Carrie the Destroyer said, on July 21, 2011 at 8:44 am

        Yeah, it did happen years ago.

        It’s also been largely helped by the network, MTV-U, which caters exclusively to colleges. When I lived in the dorms at MU it was on the standard dorm cable and unlike actual MTV, they played music videos–a lot of them from the p4k buzzbands at the time–that was around the time I realized that it’d be come too big and something else entirely. I can’t say that I can bring myself to read it anymore, mostly because of what the pitchfork brand represents; and largely because I don’t care much for their reviews. If I do go there, it’s because I want to see who is touring, which is mostly what I used it for all along. It may come as a surprise to you, but I don’t care to read about 90% of the record reviews out there. Mostly because I hate the way people try to write about music–it’s like dancing about architecture. Because the way some guy describes is usually some vague comparison to My Bloody Valentine, and none of the bands even come close to MBV–it’s the sloppiest, stupidest trick in the book. Sorry—this is becoming a rant, I better stop.

        back to MTV-U: When I did actually watch it, it was a little disarming to see that they had my boy, Bradford Cox, covering CMJ for them in 2007.(note: he wasn’t quite infallible to me, I was a little more than just merely peeved–I think I read an interview somewhere where he says he kind of regrets that phase of his life–maybe I’m just making that up).

      • builderofcoalitions said, on July 21, 2011 at 8:59 am

        Yeah, anyone who writes a record review is an ass…JK. 😉 LULZ! Kitties!

        I agree with you wholeheartedly. As much as I hate to admit it, Carrie, your rants are right on. I too quit reading reviews years ago. Sometimes I skim them to get a sense of what others are thinking, but I mostly make up my own mind. That said, I do enjoy reading your reviews whether I agree or not (ahem, Fleet Foxes – a review everyone here should read as it is bad-ass).

        P4k is a news source for me. I know more about their reviews from Wikipedia entries and HRO. I do discover new bands (for me) on P4k and other similar sites, but usually based on who’s opening for Sonic Youth or collaborating with Sufjan Stevens or something like that. As they say, it’s in the details.

        I think everyone has had that Bradford Cox moment when a musician we hold in high regard sells him/herself to the devil for marketing/income purposes. It doesn’t bother me. People have to make that paper.

      • carrie the destroyer said, on July 21, 2011 at 9:54 am

        I’ve allowed myself to forgive him as it was pre-microcastle/weird era/Logos era–that was what sold me on his genius. he was just riding the fame waves from cryptograms and was yet to make his true brilliance apparent to me.

        but yeah, everyone does shit like that–I still haven’t quite been able to forgive Of Montreal for the Outback Steakhouse commercial.

      • builderofcoalitions said, on July 21, 2011 at 10:08 am

        Me neither. The one time I saw Of Montreal (guest list!), they played that effing song which bothered me more than the commercial. Then, they bastardized “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”

  3. Nick said, on July 26, 2011 at 11:17 am

    That’s almost the way I feel at any concert I go to these days. I’m not that old (26) but I’m not in college anymore and it seems like at every show I’d rather just stand in the back and listen then get up close and get really annoyed by the people up front. It sucks though, because I still like new bands and want to go to their shows. I don’t want to be relegated to only going to Michael McDonald and Billy Joel concerts yet.

    Also, I don’t want to come across as confrontational, because I am honestly interested in the explanation and not just defending a band I like, but why do you think Band of Horses is fading? Their new music isn’t as good as their old? Their audience is getting more annoying? You think they are good buy can’t keep up the pace?

    One more thing. I can’t tell, did you want more of the Pitchfork crowd there or did you want neither?

    • builderofcoalitions said, on July 26, 2011 at 11:43 am

      So many questions…

      Band of Horses’ music used to blow me away. They wrote anthems and sounded like a arena-ready Built to Spill. Then, they went down this roots rock route that just bores me. Maybe it coincided with their move from Seattle to South Carolina. I don’t know. Their last album just doesn’t do it for me. The audiences at their shows certainly don’t help.

      I don’t know that I want more or less of the P4k set. I just expected more hipsters, a more interesting crowd than what I got. It troubles me when young people are so uninteresting. I’m 36 (nowhere near Michael McDonald/Billy Joel age) and pretty uninteresting, but people should be cool and very interesting when they’re 22. So, I guess I want more P4k readers for a newer band. They annoy me when they go to Pavement or Yo La Tengo gigs, but I expect them at a show like this one. Honestly, have you ever seen so many cargo shorts outside of an Old Navy?

      • jeffmenter said, on July 27, 2011 at 12:04 pm

        “people should be cool and very interesting when they’re 22.”

        I am trying to figure out what this means and I’m failing.

      • builderofcoalitions said, on July 27, 2011 at 12:12 pm

        The young have a lot of energy and are often up on the latest trends. It’s one reason I like living near major universities. People in their early twenties inspire me to keep up. It’s disappointing to see young people who have less drive and awareness than someone in their mid-thirties.

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