My husband insisted all week that if we went to the Blitzen Trapper show at the Grey Eagle last Saturday night, we’d be the oldest people there by decades. (He seemed to take comfort in the thought that we’d be mostly ignored when the teenage audience decided we were dropping off someone too young to drive themselves, or perhaps parents of someone in the band.)
We’re not really that old. And, actually, there were others in the audience older than we. They weren’t the majority, but still. And we weren’t there for the energetic, screamingly-loud Blitzen Trapper (the band I kept thinking was called “Blister Trap”) anyway. We were there for the opening act, Fleet Foxes, a Seattle-based quintet that describes themselves as “Baroque pop.”
Though that description is colorful and evocative, it doesn’t really do the band justice. Their stage presence alone deserves analogies rarely found in rock music. Part elfin, part hipster (though not hippie, according to a recent write up in The Stranger), they seem to straddle worlds as they take their places behind mics, keyboards and drum sets. Front man Robin Pecknold apologizes for his green lumberjack shirt. He wears cropped jeans and Blunstone boots; tells us he couldn’t eat anything at the Grey Eagle because he’s vegan. His long shaggy hair and bushy beard seems appropriate when paired with mystically tinged lyrics about … well, I don’t even know, exactly.
That’s the thing — the Fleet Foxes tell stories, weave tapestries of harmonies and suspended images without ever giving up the thread of mystery enshrouding their music. Pecknold and guitarist Christian Wargo (more rock star than folkloric in dress) sing intricate harmonies with other members of the band chiming in at times. But those two voices are a controlled burn of emotion. They start much of their set list a cappella with instrumentation slowly filling in, allowing the voice to lead where in rock music it’s so often an after thought. The sound is gorgeous, lush, sweeping and complex, but not without frequent sonic creshendos and driving rhythm.
In the past, the band compared themselves to Crosby Stills and Nash and Fairport Convention though in truth, in their early 20s, they far outplay those bands. And though the Fleet Foxes aren’t doing anything new per se, they’re combining such an intriguing array of influences (think Jethro Tull, minus the flute, on the Renaissance Festival circuit) and pulling off each song with such tasteful aplomb that they’re worth a second listen. As Three Imaginary Girls wrote at the group’s onset, “Fleet Foxes Will Steal Your Heart.” The sad truth about this sort of talent is that such bands rarely last very long. One reason is that each player is worthy of a solo career. But I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the Grey Eagle will soon have this band back as a headlining act — a half-hour set just wasn’t enough.