photo via Flickr
Last year's Lollapalooza was basically perfect, lineup-wise as well as weather-wise. This year's lineup left me wholeheartedly underwhlemed, so instead of dealing with Friday's rain and the sweltering humidity of Saturday and Sunday, I opted for two shows at the Metro instead: The Decemberists on Thursday and Fleet Foxes on Saturday. As the Indy Decemberists review below points out, they're swinging for the fences these days (and they opened with the 18-minute epic The Tain on Thursday.) Also, I would like to publicly petition that the "Diamond" duo vocalists be present as much as possible, and perhaps turn this band into America's supergroup answer to the New Pornographers.
But on to Saturday night. We walked in just before 11pm as openers Dungen were taking the stage. Dungen are from Sweden, and as such, all their lyrics are sung in Swedish. This makes for an enjoyable time of guessing what their lyrics are about. I'm guessing most revolve around fun bike rides, or any activity related to fjords. But then again, they could just as likely be anti-semitic screeds. Who knows? They vacillated between airy pop melodies and full-blown psychedlia, and I believe they are the first rock band I've ever seen incorporate the flute so heavily.
It should be pointed out that the Metro felt like a damn oven Saturday night. The fans were on, but made no difference. The air was humid, stagnant, and unrelenting, leaving all in attendance sweltering to a particularly uncomfortable degree. By the time Fleet Foxes took the stage a bit after midnight, My clothes felt at least five pounds heavier. One could easily surmise that if I was that sweaty, it had to be much worse for the flannel-clad, hirsute band on stage.
Robin Pecknold has apparently been quite sick with a nasty fever lately, and mentioned a couple songs into the set that he had been ingesting an Advil/Dayquil cocktail that he discouraged anyone else from attempting. Despite the fact that he looked like a man constantly on the verge of passing out, he never removed his flannel shirt. That's dedication to the image my friend.
Fortunately the fever had no bearing whatsoever on the vocals, which of course is the staple of the band's short, but quickly growing, legend. The four-parts soared through the set without ever hitting a stray note. The crowd that started off subdued at the beginning of the set got progressively louder in sing-a-longs throughout the set, feeding off the energy of the bearded harmonizers sweating their asses off while belting through an 80-minute set. I don't have the setlist, but suffice it to say they played everything you would want to hear from their album and EP, as well as a couple excellent-sounding new songs.
Last year's Fleet Foxes set at Pitchfork impressed in respect to their ability to match the pristine performance created in the studio. But the band's growth from last year to this one cannot be ignored. The performances sound fuller, with an energy and confidence that goes above and beyond what they've laid down on tape. The vocals are belted out with more passion and they're that much more engaging as a result. The natural assumption would be that a year on the road had simply given them the confidence to take chances and experiment with a solid foundation. But I attribute it to Robin Pecknold completely abandoning the whole "sitting down on stage" act. Technicians can sit, but rock stars have to stand. Even when the potential for heat stroke is staring them in the face.