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Fleet Foxes @ El Rey, 9/22/08

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Awash in a sea of plaid on Monday night, an epiphany struck: folk was chic again. It is currently hip and groovy to wear plaid shirts, headbands, feathers in your hair, and beads around your neck. We're back in the 1960s, baby. But more interesting than the fashion, because fashions come and go, was the music. The opening act was a young man from Los Angeles named Frank Fairfield. He looked and sounded like he was from the Los Angeles of 1908 rather than 2008. Hair slicked back like Clark Gable, button-down shirt buttoned to the very top button, and pants hiked up unfashionably high, this young man looked like he had just walked out of O' Brother Where Art Thou?

Here's the glorious thing that atmosphere will do for you. Put young Frank in front of a historical re-enactment, and odds are he would have been booed and heckled by these kids. But put this amazingly talented musician on stage at the El Rey, and they were putty in his hands. God, he could play. With a graceful ease that only comes with an enormous amount of practice Frank picked up a different instrument for every song. Violin, guitar, mandolin, and banjo were all plucked within an inch of their lives, and singing with joy.

But what made this all possible is the fact that the Fleet Foxes have put out an album of such exquisite beauty that the mainstream has sat up and took notice. (story continues below photo gallery)

"White Winter Hymnal"

On their magnificent return to LA, the boys from Seattle for two sold out nights played the El Rey, a venue they were very much taken by. "This place is huge!" marveled Robin Pecknold, lead singer of the group. "Seriously, the light from the stage doesn't even reach the end of the room." The guys had no problem with friendly banter amongst themselves and the audience. In such a large venue they made the audience feel like we were all buddies, not separated as rock stars and their fans. This included one part they sprayed the crowd with their much beloved Carrot Seed Oil Complexion Mist from Burt's Bees, so that we could all enjoy the smell.

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Merriment aside, the Fleet Foxes sounded better live than they did on their album, which is something most bands suck at. Their three part harmonies were gorgeous. Robin Pecknold on acoustic guitar, bassist Christian Wargo, and keyboardist Casey Wescott, have voices that blend together like streams that become a mighty river. They will wash over you with their crisp beauty that is undeniable. Skyler Skjelset gave one of the most bashful performances I've ever seen a lead guitarist give. He smiled with shy pleasure when the crowd cheered his solos. This is not to say his performance was any worse for it. In fact his use of his bow was quite ingenious. And keeping the band together was drummer Joshua Tillman who played with a gentle ferocity that is hard to describe. There was something powerfully restrained about his performance, which he allowed to erupt only when the song called for it.

If you don't own the Fleet Foxes' debut album Sun Giant, you should pick it up immediately. They are like nothing else that is out there, and without a doubt will be copied soon in the near future.

I would also like to thank Sandra Vahtel for taking these photos. Without her this piece would be nothing more than the ramblings of an inspired fan.