Hanging on with Foxygen

Foxygen played Wednesday night at Turner Hall. Considering that their last show in Milwaukee in 2015 was meant as a farewell, it was amazing to see the band in one piece- accompanied, of course. It was a fun showcase of their newest release Hang, in addition to their old jams true to their California rock roots.

Cut Worms opened. Their sound is old-school bewitching, slow and mellow. In addition to their romantic originals they did a phenomenal cover of a Ricky Nelson song. Milwaukee was their last stop, they admitted.

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Photo by Kellan Nordstrom

Foxygen started with their banger, “We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic.” France stood tall on stage, bare-chested in Lolita sunglasses and white brimmed hat. He is a very lively front man with dynamic dance moves, fist pumps, and frantic kicks to the air. It’s a bit of Mick Jagger swagger, but more oddball than that. The chemistry with Jackie Cohen on backing vocals is palpable.

We’ve all endured rock shows where the band just STANDS there and plays, or, alternatively, where there’s so much commotion on stage that the sound suffers. Foxygen commits neither sin and instead delivers.

Standard banter ensues, as France says: “Let’s play some more music. I’ll talk to you guys later, I got a lot on my mind… Just kidding.” He jokes about how every band introduces themselves with just their name and where they’re from. Later, he talks in a lazy British accent.

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Photo by Kellen Nordstrom

Up next are their three most popular songs: “San Francisco,” “Shuggie,” and “Follow the Leader.” “Follow the Leader” is off their newest release Hang which arrived after a hiatus lasting several years.

Given the complexity of the studio versions it was amusing to see how the songs had transformed for a live performance. Live, Foxygen’s musicality is met with a great energy. They are a band of borrowed elements that have been transmuted. It’s rock with fuzzy ends, psychedelic with more intent. Songs start with cacophony and then snap into place, or the reverse, where they reach a boiling point and overflow.

There are birthday wishes for Marcus, a member of the accompanying band. There’s a costume change, and there’s some instrumental jamming.

The audience experience was less than enjoyable, unfortunately. Given it was a Wednesday night, the crowd was pretty young. Some boys kept stirring, starting a pseudo mosh pit when the tempo picked up. It was totally inappropriate for the atmosphere. Something I’d never seen before happened. France stopped the show and called them out, asking, “who are the trouble makers?” He asked that the rowdy people move to the back of the venue repeatedly. Before returning to the music, France remarked that maybe they would learn to be nice at the next show. It is awesome to see musicians, such as Mitski, Speedy Ortiz, and now Foxygen, push for safer concerts for all.

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Photo by Kellen Nordstrom

The show went on.

Foxygen left for a moment and came back for a three song encore, starting with “How Can You Really.” All that can be said is that Foxygen is back at it again.

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2 comments

  • how was the “pseudo moshpit” inappropriate? are people not supposed to have fun and dance at shows?

  • I feel indifferent about the concert. Sam France comes out with the opening song shaking his head and not singing the beginning lyrics because he was in spite of the other band members playing something wrong. I did really enjoy how they incorporated brass instruments, but at the same time I felt the sound quality with vocals and back up vocals were low. By the third song I had heard Sam France criticize how young the front audience is, which is surprising since the demographic Foxygen mostly appeals to is millennials. Lastly, the ‘pseudo moshpit’ seems a bit far to describe the boys who pushing eachother around. As someone who has gone to many, I had never seen a musician call out someone in the audience for dancing, and neither did the workers at turner I talked to. Overall, I think the live performance Foxygen put on was somewhat subpar and their ego only ruins their performance even more.

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