Thursday, June 21 , 2018, 4:53 pm | Fair 66º

John Moehlis: Seattle's Finest Blend

Jeff Moehlis: Fleet Foxes Are Seattle’s Finest Blend

A harmony-rich evening rocks the UCSB crowd, inside and out of the UCen

When the Fleet Foxes started their show at The Hub at UCSB on Monday night with the a cappella “Sun Giant,” it was immediately clear that the audience was in for a treat. Those glorious harmonies don’t just exist on record/CD/MP3-files — the band sounds like that live, too! Then the instruments kicked in and the music segued into “Sun It Rises” followed by “Drops In The River,” mesmerizing the mostly young, fully attentive audience.

Although the Fleet Foxes are from Seattle, they depart from the heavier distorted-guitar tradition of notable Seattle artists such as Jimi Hendrix, Queensryche, Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Alice in Chains and Mudhoney.

Rather, the Fleet Foxes’ music is the sound of The Beach Boys hanging out in the mountains; Crosby, Stills and Nash sipping coffee with vegan creamer instead of doing cocaine; Amazing Blondel playing for the iPod generation instead of the Renaissance Faire. Like these bands, the Foxes sing intricate multipart harmonies, but their indie-folk-rock is as distinct from each of these bands as each of these bands is from the others.

The band’s musical mastermind and songwriter is lead singer and guitarist Robin Pecknold. But the rest of the band — Skyler Skjelset on lead guitar; Christian Wargo on bass, guitar and vocals; Casey Westcott on keyboards and vocals; and Josh Tillman on drums and vocals — is top-notch and essential to the group’s sound. The band has so far only released two EPs (one self-released) and an eponymous debut album, the latter of which graced, and often topped, many “best album” lists for 2008. It is too early to tell if the Fleet Foxes will have the longevity and impact of, say, The Beach Boys. But the future looks sunny, both for them and their fans.

The Fleet Foxes played the bulk of their 2008 Sun Giant EP and sublime 2008 album, including the songs “English House,” “White Winter Hymnal,” “Ragged Wood,” “Your Protector,” “He Doesn’t Know Why” and “Mykonos.” Pecknold also performed a solo set in the middle of the concert that included the Foxes’ “Oliver James” and a comparatively lackluster “My Only Son” by the late Duncan Browne.

Their welcome encore started with Pecknold’s solo — and unmiked — passionate performance of the traditional song “Katie Cruel,” and also included his solo performance of the Foxes’ “Tiger Mountain Peasant Song.” The show ended with a rousing performance of “Blue Ridge Mountains,” in which the Fleet Foxes were joined onstage by the members of opening band Blitzen Trapper playing percussive instruments. (Speaking of Blitzen Trapper, their opening set featured an enjoyable, eclectic mix of songs ranging from retro-tinged organ-driven rockers to piano-driven ballads, with a lot of harmony-rich country-folk in between.)

The sound at The Hub was decent, but in my opinion the Fleet Foxes’ vocals should have been mixed higher. There was also a minor ongoing problem with feedback.

It should also be mentioned that although the Fleet Foxes seem very serious on record, in concert they were quite relaxed and playful, joking repeatedly with the audience. When a student yelled out, “That’s how you sing, mother****ers,” they quipped that the yeller must be a music major, or better yet, a music professor. And in reference to the group of people outside listening to the concert through the UCen windows, they joked that those people need to understand that “music costs money,” but then pointed out that it is perhaps a bit extreme to call people who download music illegally the same name (“pirates”) as Somali bandits who hijack ships off the African coast.

But seriously, everyone, let’s keep paying for the music we listen to so bands such as the Fleet Foxes can afford to keep producing it for us to listen to, OK?

Noozhawk contributor Jeff Moehlis is an associate professor of mechanical engineering at UCSB.

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