The style at a Foxygen show is, unsurprisingly, of the era of Foxygen’s music. Foxygen’s era is a bit spread out though, a collage of classic rock iconography plagiarized, improvised and refreshed. Theirs is a sweet spot somewhere between the 50s everybody-gone-surfin’ idealism, the flower-crown 60s love child, 70s glam, and the color schema of the proto-typical “hipster” garb. One has to wonder what this crowd looks like on a regular day.
Does that guy really have platinum dreads once he leaves the venue?
Damn, those Doc Marten platforms go super well with that Irish pleated mini skirt.
Could that dude button down his tie-dye button-up to just above his naval anywhere but here?
Nice wool cap with Record Store Day buttons, bro. Sure is cold all shoulder-to-shoulder in here.
Everyone tonight at the Fonda Theatre is a huge fan of the group. Many have kept up with them for some time. Someone mentions how glad they are that the group didn’t break-up following some inner-band conflicts last year. I mention how much I like their new single, “How Can You Really,” to the shrugging disdain of a diehard, “Did you even listen to ‘Take The Kids Off Broadway’?” That sort of thing.
After settling in, the first of two opening bands begins. The group introduces themselves as, “Dub Thompson,” and shouts, over gnarling feedback that, “This song is about riding a horse motherfucker!” and with that the show begins.
Dub Thompson has impressive swagger and great stage banter. Their sound is grunge, but sprinkled in the cracks is a bit of a rap delivery. They plow through their set to the roughly mid-filled audience and the joy from stage is palpable. Near the end they play a few seconds of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and the juxtaposition is apropos, and it isn’t just because the lead singer looks like Zachary Cole Smith (DIIV) who looks like Cobain. This is probably Thompson’s biggest show so far, but it certainly won’t be their biggest for long. The crowd cheers when Dub Thompson finishes up, and nothing could prepare them for Gary Wilson.
Back in the 70s Gary Wilson was making the most freaked out synth pop of the time. In many ways he was ahead of his time, but after last night’s performance one could argue that he is still far and away ahead of any time. Wilson performs tonight in a colonial powdered wig, red tinged kimono robe, orange gloves, a black Gorilla trash bag hanging from his left wrist, a roll of duct tape precariously latched on the right. The rest of the band is an extension of this “Trash Bag Swag.” Suffice to say, no one in attendance could compete with the fashion killers on stage.
But, it is their music, and the vindication with which they perform it, that keeps everyone enthralled. There are human torsos on stage, the sort used for CPR instruction. There are disembodied heads, normally used by hairstylists in training. Many times these human pieces are yelled at, caressed, pleaded with, questioned. It is a stunning freakout, and one that has branded its memory into my mind.
As Wilson finishes up, it becomes obvious that Foxygen have done a great job in choosing their opening bands. Dub Thompson has the hard-hitting attack, and Wilson has the total tripped out acid-ride.
When Foxygen arrive it is with a bang. They explode onto the stage with “How Can You Really.” Well, frontman Sam France explodes at least. He thrashes, jumps, rolls, falls (one time pretty badly actually.) He is Bowie, Zappa, Plant. We may have a legitimate rockstar in Sam France, or he may be the Kool-Aid Man. He needs the whole stage, and some of the front row of the audience as well. All I can think is, it’s great that they band have added three backup singers to carry the songs, because France clearly doesn’t give a shit about singing. He is a spectacle, a vessel of the sound.
The rest of Foxygen is tight, professional and visibly enjoying their job. The newly added backup singers have their voices and dance numbers down. At times they sway, at other points they kick their legs high to the music. Jonathan Rado is the Dylan to France’s Mercury. He keeps everyone on task on the finer details as France parades around, nearly nude as his denim jumper threatens to fall to his ankles.
The entire performance drives home the hodgepodge aesthetic that Foxygen have so carefully crafted. They can dip into Sgt Pepper” for a moment and bounce out to Exile on Main St. They can go from Autobahn breakneck to suburban Sunday drive in the blink of an eye. They can have 20’s era Flapper back-up singers on the same stage with drummer J Mascis. It is an all encompassing and engaging performance, albeit a tad bit chaotic. How can rock n roll really be anything but?
Review: Ziv Biton
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