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Fleet Foxes

13 Aug

First Avenue Forest or It Starts With Swedes and Ends in Hugs

Reine Fiske: Can I get more guitar?
Gustav Ejstes: Fuck yeah. Rock and roll. This is Dungen.

Dungen with Fleet Foxes- First Avenue 8/9/09 from Stacy Cupcake on Vimeo.

Dungen \’doonyen\ noun. Swedish psychedelic rock rock quartet fronted by Ejstes with Fiske on lead guitars, Mattias Gustavsson (no relation to Ejstes) on bass and Johan Holmegard on drums. Believe Fleet Foxes to be the best band in the world, Fleet Foxes believe the same thing about them. Joined onstage for percussion backup by Fleet Foxes, all except J. Tillman, drummer. Ejstes very happy, probably due to making music and socialized healthcare and education. Plays rock flute. Sometimes sounds like Emerson, Lake & Palmer, especially while accentuating heavy jams with piano walkdowns. Fiske plays a wicked guitar, especially in the latter half of the set stopped songs from becoming totally lost in hippiedom and lyrics no one could understand (cf. Swedish.) Obligatory Prince shoutout (more on that later from Tillman and Robin Pecknold.) Best thing from Sweden since IKEA? Maybe, but do they have melon-ballers?

Melon-ballers aside, Dungen might not be too far hyperbolic in calling Fleet Foxes “the best band in the world.” Obviously, if you think Mastodon are the best band in the world, you’re not going to agree, but it is hard to argue at the ease and comfort with which Pecknold and his gang of baroque northwest lumberjacks break off impeccable four part harmonies. Or how loud they get, building up the layers so that it’s not some limpid chamber-pop effort without any muscle. Or the fact that the band is made up of talented people who willingly wait for their appropriate moment in the conversation to make the greatest impact.

Take Skyler Skjelset, Pecknold’s highschool friend and longest collaborator, who with his beardless chin and cropped blond hair looks as out of place in the band as a choirboy at a swingers club. You can almost forget that he is there until he blindsides you with perfectly timed licks coming out of left field with a minor shift and a touch of blues heartbreak. Where did that come from? Seattle, apparently. Caught the red-eye and showed up at First Avenue just in time. Same goes for other guitarist Christian Wargo and keyboard-player Casey Wescott (“Bearded Other Guy 1” and “Bearded Other Guy 2”, respectively). All of a sudden, there they are, intertwining the harmonies, with a perfectly timed organ overlay, a subtle counterpoint to Pecknold’s Odetta-style acoustic hammering. Loud, out of nowhere, incredibly hot and intensely targeted. These guys are an arsenal.

Fleet Foxes “Your Protector” with Gustav Ejstes of Dungen- First Avenue 8/9/09 from Stacy Cupcake on Vimeo.

It’s even better when they get a flute in on the game. What you can sort of see here is a great example of that support and collaboration- Wargo is tapping out the changes on Ejstes’ back to keep the nervous Swede sounding great and staying true to the original recording of “Your Protector”. Pecknold claimed this was the first time they had ever tried it live with the flute, and if that’s true (and even if we were just told a nice stage lie) they pulled it off like champs. As if we’d expect anything else.

It is also comforting to know that if, for some unknown reason, Fleet Foxes doesn’t work out for Pecknold and Tillman, they have a career ahead of them hosting drive-time radio. Tillman can talk for hours about subjects as varied as the vortex of human pestilence into which cardboard cutouts of Hannah Montana and Kewpie dolls go into, being called out in London as “the Jonas Brothers in 15 years” (we can only hope) and any number slightly uncomfortable topics that keep Pecknold amused and bemused. Tillman, in terms of the dynamic of the relationship, is the feckless id, driving away fecundity and base matter while Pecknold’s superego constructs riffs of straightman verging on nerdy banter (jokes about the Guardian Online and apologies for all the Prince jokes that get made in Minneapolis) to rise above it. Which, if you think about it, is the perfect relationship for a drummer and a songwriter to have.

Fleet Foxes “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song”- First Avenue 8/9/09 from Stacy Cupcake on Vimeo.

Pecknold, of course, in the words of Phil Elk, has “talent coming out of his ass,” and so he could probably rise to the top of some singer-songwriter pool by himself. But it would be so much less of an overall engagement, what he has by himself is magnified through the people he works with and we should celebrate that. For Dungen, this was their last stop on the tour and as the show ended everyone was brought back up on stage for vigorous hugging and congratulations. Fleet Foxes promised to be back in January, and the Swedes lingered on the stage and snapped pictures as the screen came down, attempting a visual record of sonic joy.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks

  1. Father John Misty at First Avenue | Cake In 15 - May 22, 2013

    […] Throwback bonus: Tillman as the “feckless id” to Robin Pecknold’s superego in Fleet Foxes, from August 2009. […]

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