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Fleet Foxes played at the Columbia City Theater on Thursday, April 15th, 2011. Photos by Laura Musselman.

Fleet Foxes

Columbia City Theater

Thursday, April 14th,

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Fleet Foxes Debut Helplessness Blues to Intimate Crowd at Columbia City Theater

fleetfoxescct95_web.jpg
Fleet Foxes played at the Columbia City Theater on Thursday, April 15th, 2011. Photos by Laura Musselman.

Fleet Foxes

Columbia City Theater

Thursday, April 14th, 2011

Using the 140 characters of a Twitter stream as a judge of someone's emotional state is, at best, a bit dubious. Watching Fleet Foxes singer Robin Pecknold's thought process as the band recorded their second record (Helplessness Blues), you could see an artist consumed with public expectations in real time, the fifth wall broken down via our good friend, Mr. Internet. Not only was Pecknold dealing with those nagging, whispering voices of publicly broadcast sophomore slump by the very blogs that shouted his band's name to the high heavens in 2008, but dealing with the still-burning embers of a breakup and the kind overwhelming ennui and existentialism that grows rampant in our mid 20's/early 30's; the kind of perpetually whirring, restless motor that keeps us awake in the deadest, bluest parts of night.

Those same 140 characters led 300 Twitter-savvy folks to the Columbia City Theatre Thursday night to see the Fleet Foxes start the journey of proving their sophomore record, the yet-released Helplessness Blues. While singer Robin Pecknold immediately put out the disclaimer that the band hadn't performed in over a year and a half, the few rusty moments (a couple creaky vocal parts here and there, and a few moments of too much organ in the mix) were forgivable from the moment the band started out with the lush instrumental "The Cascades".

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Fleet Foxes singer Robin Pecknold overlooking the sold out crowd from the balcony. Photo by Laura Musselman.

Check out more pictures from last night's Fleet Foxes show.

The Columbia City Theater is already well-known as an amazing sounding venue, but seeing Fleet Foxes fill a tiny shoebox theater with massive waves of heavenly, reverb-drenched four-part harmonies may as well have converted the place into a church. Over the course of 19 songs, the Foxes walked at a leisurely (but determined) pace through a healthy balance of their older and newer material.

Quiet and politely humble (you could find most of the band hanging outside smoking cigarettes with the crowd before the show), Fleet Foxes had no light show to speak of, and singer Robin Pecknold never stood from the chair he was in. A sweaty, thrashing mess this is not. What the band lacks in dramatic mood lighting, they make up for in their further mastering of the subtle art of tension and release, building cacophonic walls of sound only to knock them down with a feather. Closing your eyes amongst the pindrop quiet crowd, it sounded at times as if Simon and Garfunkel and Ennio Morricone were standing stone still with the Foxes onstage, collaborating in real time on the soundtrack to an epic film.

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Guitarist Skye Skjelset focuses on adding another layer to the fray. Photo by Laura Musselman.

Seeing the majority of the highly anticipated Helplessness Blues performed for the first time, the amount of immense layers behind the placid strums and oceanic swells must be seen live to be truly appreciated. It's still mind-boggling that six people without so much as computer-assisted backing tracks can create such a titanic wall of harmonious, organic sound. While the Foxes' prowess was nothing to scoff at before, the addition of former Blood Brother/Past Lives member Morgan Henderson has allowed them even more room with their arrangements, and watching Henderson effortlessly shift from cello to flute to violin to squawking sax and auxiliary percussion, the songs sounded even more massive than they do on record. The centerpiece of the show was the 8 minute "The Shrine/An Argument"; a song built on seemingly three movements, and parlaying to what the Foxes do the best; moody, baroque chamber pop transitioning back and forth between a simple, strummy chorus and into a building, heavenly serenade of catharsis that felt like a breath of fresh air in scorched, dying lungs.

SETLIST:

Cascades

Grown Ocean

Drops In The River

Battery Kinzie

Bedouin Dress

Sim Sala Bim

Mykonos

Your Protector

Tiger Mountain Peasant Song

White Winter Hymnal

Ragged Wood

Lorelai

Derwentwater Stones

Montezuma

He Doesn't Know Why

The Shrine/An Argument

Blue Spotted Tail

Blue Ridge Mountains

-ENCORE-

Helplessness Blues

 
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