Photo By E.
When music slams into time and space, the results can be momentous. Interspersed among the every day albums of my collection are those that offer insta-nostalgia, jolting me back to exotic locations, seemingly more innocent times, and an eclectic range of emotions. Coldplay's Parachutes, for instance, finds me in the front seat of a double decker headed for Heathrow...a semester spent abroad coming to an abrupt, teary end. A recent cruise through Jimmy Eat World's Clarity brought me back to the seventy-two minutes my best friend and I gave us to get where we were going: Denver Colorado and our first ever glimpse at The Rocky Mountains. The Shins' Oh Inverted World...a misty morning drive down California's PCH, alone, three days before Christmas, watching solitary surfers and Pacific swells roll up on the beaches of Malibu. Once these kinds of connections are made, it's over. The soundtrack will never be the same.
Though they hail from the mossy, evergreen enclaves of the Pacific Northwest, spend their most recent album Helplessness Blues dreaming of a simple life in an anonymous orchard, and evoke images of beige and honeyed plains with their strange and bending brand of acoustic folk, its' the Brooklyn oasis Fleet Foxes played this past Saturday night that will most likely forever provide the emotional link between memories and music whenever songs from Helplessness Blues, Ragged Wood, or the Sun Giant EP make their way to me. That space, at that particular time will be locked away in the cozy confines of my fondest recollections.
Upon arrival at the band's show at The Brooklyn Waterfront, signs of the connection were already brewing. A wide open space, a dark and stormy churn of East River water, and a bronzed city—midtown—just flickering to nocturnal life as openers The Walkmen worked their way through an atmospheric set. Oh, and there was that sunset...a bright and bursting hellfire of a sunset exploding behind the city's cartoon buildings. For every person perched before the hometown Walkmen, there was easily another gaping in awe by the waterfront.
It was this golden hour moment that preceded the band's after-brunch performance (ok, so it was 7:30 PM, but leading man Robin Pecknold couldn't resist playing into our borough-wide habit of afternoon indulgence). The band's signature vocal harmonies—so pure, so damn divine I imagine Manhattan caught hints of what was happening on the later summer breeze—provided an immediate hook. Personal highlights included "Your Protector," thumping along with its' strange, drunken mysticism, and "Mykonos," a crowd favorite with its' peaceful romp of toms and lovely, layered vocals.
The Foxes also had space on their mind...literally. Projected behind them, strange milky clouds of universe swirled and pulsed, occasionally dabbed in washes of color and spinning, geometric shapes. Fitting somewhere within the folds of the cosmic aesthetic, the band dug out their most ambitious song to date. "The Shrine / An Argument", an eight-minute journey in multiple parts, leading with modest, acoustic aspirations, building in mood and tempo, and eventually turning towards an unexpected, anything goes kind of conclusion. On record, the freewheeling, bass clarinet freak-out is odd and polarizing. Here, with their tiny projected universe churning behind them, it was a thing of beauty, as time (drums, vocals) pulled in and out of the jam. Afterwards, the band would immediately turn to Helplessness' most minimal number "Blue Spotted Tail." With transitions so dramatic, the Foxes took their audience on an elegant rise and fall, as if we were all perched upon their chest, riding the big bellied gulps of the breath of their music.
When the city freezes over in the not too distant future, I do believe this will be one of the happy places I go to; that last gasp of summer...one last outdoor concert before we music fans retreat to the wintery confines of the city's sweaty club scene. Just as such snow blasted thoughts plowed through the mind, the band jammed out on "White Winter Hymnal," as if to hammer home that which no one in their right mind wanted to think about.
Of course, it can't be stopped. Winter's going to come—soon—and when it does, I know I'll be plugging into my Fleet Foxes records, and I know exactly where it will be taking me.