As I walked into The Paramount, soft shades of yellow and orange illuminated the stage, as shapes slowly changed and morphed into other forms. The colors reflected off of The Paramount’s chandeliers and ornate decorations, and the crowd stood and stared at various points through the venue that glowed bright gold. Fleet Foxes’ projections began before their set did, and due to some box office difficulties, I only had to wait a few minutes before Fleet Foxes themselves walked onto the stage.
Fleet Foxes -- the collection of Skyler Skjelset, Casey Westcott, Christian Wargo, Morgan Henderson and frontman Robin Pecknold -- graced the stage for the second night in a row at The Paramount, both to sold-out crowds. Pecknold told the audience how he had romanticized The Paramount, as he had to walk up and down Pine Street on the way to his restaurant job prior to starting the band. He added that the two shows were a right of passage of sorts, that Fleet Foxes, from Seattle, Washington, had made it in some way. It’d be difficult to argue that they haven’t -- from their self-titled debut that influenced nearly all alt-folk after its release, and being cited directly as influences for bands like Mumford & Sons and Local Natives.
They kicked off the night with “I Am All That I Need / Arroyo Seco / Thumbprint Scar,” the six-minute opening track off of their latest release, Crack-Up. However, they omitted “I Am All That I Need,” and instead started with the more upbeat portion of “Arroyo Seco.” In an interesting choice, Fleet Foxes proceeded to then play the next two tracks off of Crack-Up, in the exact same order as the album, before returning to some older ones.
Robin Pecknold is talented beyond measure — simply Googling some of the lyrics for this review left me in complete awe over his storytelling ability, combined with his knack for crafting intricate chord progressions that can change moods within seconds. One of my favorite moments of the night was “The Shrine / An Argument,” that really show off Pecknold’s lyricism best when the lyrics drift and wind back, stretching over multiple stories in the same song.
Many of the songs slid into another, with little to no dialogue from Pecknold. Their background images began to transition from the warm yellow and orange tones to deeper, blues and purples, and faster-moving shapes in sync with songs like “The Cascades” and “Fool’s Errand.” The subtle transitions created a perfect environment for the audience to stand and revel in the beauty for the first half of the set before the band picked things back up for a slightly more danceable second half when they brought out a flute, cello and even a saxophone for various songs.
“White Winter Hymnal” was another highlight of the night, with its cyclical hook rattling the walls of the Paramount. The crowd was fairly talkative despite being entranced by the music, and at one point near the end, someone shouted that it was their birthday. Pecknold quietly said, “Happy Birthday,” before orchestrating a full-band, Fleet Foxes rendition of “Happy Birthday,” before transitioning to the last song of their set, “Helplessness Blues.”
Pecknold returned to perform “Oliver James” by himself, with just an acoustic and one spotlight, paving way for one of the most stunning moments of the night, before inviting the rest of the band back on stage for “Crack-Up.” Once the lights came on I heard bits of conversations from other crowd members. I heard varying reactions but all mainly the same: they felt rejuvenated, refreshed, and even “on top of the world.”
It's easy to lose context with how massive grunge was in the early '90s. Bands like Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, and Nirvana are so ubiquitous with the region at this point that it's hard to imagine what the Northwest was like before they came barreling through with heavy punk riffs with lots and lots o…
Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJ’s think you should hear. Today’s song, featured on The Aft…
The fourth annual Project Pabst descended upon the Tom McCall Waterfront Park in Portland over the last weekend of August. Since its inception, the festival has been set like a variety jukebox arrangement one would listen to over a few cold beers or, in this case, cold PBRs. Yet, the best quality a…