Foxygen ignores drama, takes shot at greatness at Turner Hall
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Last week, in the always-riveting world of indie rock gossip, the critically acclaimed music of Foxygen took a back seat to the revelation of a rift between the band's two creative leaders, Sam France and Jonathan Rado, as disclosed in a lengthy blog post by France’s girlfriend and former touring member of the band, Elizabeth Fey. But if France and Rado are actually harboring any animosity towards each other, they’re not acknowledging it, and it wasn’t on display during Sunday’s show at Turner Hall. Of course, given the over-the-top bombast of the performance, there’s no telling where the act ends and the reality begins for these neo-psych rockers, although when Rado gushed at the end of the show, “That was, like, the best show I’ve ever played,” his gratitude certainly seemed genuine.
When the band opened for Of Montreal in December, it was a very brief, chaotic, but vivacious set that seemed perpetually on the verge of falling apart, but with the current pared-down lineup, the band was tighter, veering deftly through the sudden tempo changes of its proggy, trippy compositions without any obvious stumbles. Frontman France clearly learned a thing or two about theatrics from Kevin Barnes; he leaped, thrashed, and gyrated around the stage with the clumsy abandon of a hammered Jim Morrison. His spastic vocals and manic/depressive hippie stage presence brought to mind a combination of Chris Robinson and Ariel Pink, but as sloppy as he ever got, the pure energy of his and the band’s performance blew away anything that has been captured on their studio recordings so far. The crowd was chatty, but the atmosphere was giddily circus-like, and despite some slow moments such as “In The Darkness” and “Shuggie,” the anticipation for what might happen next kept everyone’s attention at least partially on the stage the whole time.
Obvious nods to British Invasion bands were almost as prevalent as snippets of Disney themes. The band made the most of critics’ constant (and undeniable) Rolling Stones comparisons by turning the end of “Brooklyn Police Station” into a punk-rock-speed “Sympathy For The Devil” jam, and the epic “Teenage Alien Blues” encore featured a self-aware take-off of “Get Off My Cloud.” The band’s sound is rooted in ’60s psychedelia, but its dizzying methods of cobbling together musical fragments include a lot of garage, shoegaze, and punk elements that combine into an unmistakably modern overall style. The music may have been disjointed at times, but it kept the audience on the edge of its collective seat.
The show wasn’t without its problems. The sound was somewhat cavernous and muddled, and when all is said and done, France is not a great singer, nor are any of the band members particularly impressive players. In fact, they give the impression of deliberately not trying to be good, which is probably why their records are consistently underwhelming. Taken at face value, most of their songs aren’t even that good, but their commitment to the art of performance and the wild unpredictability of this show produced an unshakeable excitement that most polished indie rock bands have never approached. If their writing and technical abilities ever catch up to their pure entertainment prowess, they’ll be unstoppable; even if that never quite happens, they could still be destined for greatness.