Choking On Foxygen
Boston, Massachusetts is a city known for its culture, art, clam chowder, and most importantly, its influential music scene. When I finalized my Fall Break trip up to visit my friend at Harvard, I found myself browsing Ticketmaster looking for every and any show playing during my stay. One band stood out to me amongst all the rest: Foxygen, a psychedelic indie rock band straight out of California fronted and created by Sam France and Jonathan Rado. To be honest I had only ever heard a few songs by them before, but after speaking to a few of my die-hard Foxygen fan friends I bought the tickets anyways and put their three albums on loop. By the time I was putting on my lucky jean crop (which I’ve worn to ever concert since I was 15) and on the “T” to the famous Paradise Rock Club, I knew all the words to every song off their latest album ...And Star Power. If only I had known that I was putting more effort into memorizing their lyrics than their lead vocalist, Sam France, who co-wrote them had. Before I go on to rip Foxygen’s performance apart, I wanted to begin by articulating my utter fondness of the venue. The Paradise Rock Club, originally named the Paradise Theatre, opened its doors in 1977. With a capacity of just over 900 people, balcony seating, and no gates blocking the audience from the leaning on the stage, it creates a perfect intimate setting between the performers and the spectators. On top of the aesthetics, it’s almost as if you can sense the presence of every other great band that had ever rocked the club the minute you set foot into the dimly lit pub. As we waited for the opening band to grace us with its presence, screens around the stage were illuminated by the names of previous acts who once played the reputable club found on Commonwealth Ave. Some of rock’s crème de la crème such as Elvis Costello, The Police, The Pixies, and Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers are just a few of the many great bands who’ve performed at the at Paradise Rock Club. World-renowned Irish band U2 made their North American premiere on stage at the Paradise Rock Club when they were promoting their album Boy. Every now and then between the listings of old and new rock bands, the screen would light up with a quote about the venue by Bono himself:
U2 were a terrible club band, but Don Law booked us anyway, he's like the uncle that sticks by you in your teens. We loved Boston, we loved the club and its audience. The Paradise has a very special place in U2's history, and we're honoured to help celebrate theirs.
Getting bent over and shoved against a stage that the Pixies rocked many years ago was the only upside to what turned out to be a rather tragic evening. The opening band, Dub Thompson, a contemporary rock band from Augora Hills, California, gave a performance very similar to one you could see in the 2010 film Scott Pilgrim v.s. The World (and I’m not saying that just because they had a seemingly morose girl slaying the drums). I mean don’t get me wrong-- I sincerely enjoyed their energy despite not being able to understand a single word out of lead guitarist and vocalist Matt Pulos’ mouth. I probably would have a more enthusiastic response to the young band’s performance if the group they opened for were half as passionate as they had been when it came to actually playing their music for their audience.
As the girls in golden dresses and 80’s sneaker’s skipped over to their respective spots on stage, and the bassist and the drummer bore their silver painted eyes behind locks of hair, I screamed and jumped with the rest of the crowd anticipating that very first note. Instantly my excitement transitioned to great concern as lead singer, Sam France, landed on his face rather than his feet when attempting to make a stomping entrance on stage. However before I knew it he was back up on his feet and literally throwing himself on top of me. My initial reaction was one of shock and intrigue-- I had never been to a concert where I’ve actually been able to interact with the artist instead of pretending that they were pointing at me. But here I was, holding a very flamboyant and undeniably coked-out 24 year-old man in my arms. As the band continued to play and the backup singers danced, Sam France seemed to be the only one who wasn’t interested in joining in. Instead of singing into his microphone, he wrapped his body in the cords and literally fought the audience members, inevitably finding himself bound up on the floor unable to move at the end of each song. By the time the third “instrumental” piece played I was beginning to hope he would just stay down. Unfortunately France never failed to jump back up on to his feet, pop a hip and repeat the same giggly “Thank you!” every single time. France’s manic and borderline inappropriate actions were childish and left me feeling very uncomfortable. It was next to impossible to focus on the music I had memorized playing in the background between catching this cut up man-child and dodging his kicks and punches.
Before October 11th, I had never in my life left a concert before the band had made their final exit off stage. As France announced their final set, I found myself among a large percentage of the crowd walking towards the exit. I felt a sentiment of disappointment as I left the concert early, but at the same time I was relieved I didn’t have to put myself through whatever that was anymore. Personally I go to concerts to listen to great live music and to watch bands do what they love to do. Maybe it just wasn’t my scene, or perhaps Foxygen is a band better listened to through the comfort of your own home. My experience can be appropriately summarized by a reference the band made days later referring to their audience as “victims” in a Facebook post:
I would give Foxygen’s performance a solid 4 out of 10 and would not suggest seeing them live unless you’re looking to spend a couple of hours babysitting a grown man without pay. Below are a few tracks off their latest album, which was officially released October 14th, 2014 (but was leaked weeks earlier) that I would have liked to have heard at the concert:
“Coulda Been My Love”