Photo: Peter

Photo: Peter [email protected]


So, it turns out halloween is an appropriate time to catch Foxygen. Now touring their third album in 2 years, the Californian duo of Jonathan Rado and Sam France have genre hopped from Sergeant Pepper, and The Velvet Underground to Bowie and The Rolling Stones, emulating many other prevalent bands from the late 60’s/early 70’s while they’re are it. I’m expecting head-nodding psyche-tinged art rock/pop tonight… I’ve never been so wrong in my life.

The Pheromoans support. Akin to The Fall, someone who clearly wants to be Mark E. Smith fronts a band of great sounding musicians. Using his microphone stand to remain upright, the lead singer slurs words with little coherence, occasionally managing to fit in nicely with his exceptional band members – possibly by accident. He mentions Jerry McGuire, swears loudly a lot, and then keeps saying “David Lynch”. It’s an amusing spectacle, but I’d like to hear someone more sober and poetic. The second to last tune is actually pretty great, which goes some way to make up for some cringeworthy and laughable moments.

Foxygen keep us waiting. Smoke is slowly bellowed onto the stage and the crowd inch forward in anticipation… some will live to regret this decision. Nine stylish and sexy looking band members charge the stage from the left and launch into a frenetic musical assault. Three backing singers dance energetically as though at an advanced step-aerobics class, wearing sparkly jumpsuits and short dresses, which match the guitarists shirt and the drummers eye make-up. This is more Rocky Horror or Tommy  than anything else… with a touch of Ariel Pink’s Haunted Graffiti.

Sam France prowls the front of the stage like Mick Jagger; wearing just skinny jeans and a smart jacket, he eyes the crowd looking to find someone to intimidate. He puts more effort into his onstage antics than his vocal performance, at first – abandoning any notion that a live rendition should sound like the album. This is purely about creating a frenzy.

They start with recent single from the 3rd album ‘How Can You Really’ – the shock from the explosive start has us on the wrong foot… did they have to sedate and restrain Sam to get these tunes sounding the way they do on the albums? ‘On Blue Mountain’ follows – I thought it had a mellow intro and a plodding beat but this is as crazy as before. It builds to an energetic verse; Sam clambers all over the monitors using the ceiling for support, throwing his water over the crowd before discarding his jacket.

It takes couple of tunes for the crowd to grow comfortable with this arrangement and attempt to match the bands enthusiasm, but we get there all right. Mini stage invasions and crowd surfing ensue over songs that I think I can recognise are pepped up with 10 cans of Red Bull and as much volume as the equipment can supply. Sam ends most of the tunes having fallen on the floor… sometimes quite painfully. He just laughs it of and carries on regardless with his tongue firmly in his cheek.

The backing singer routines leave them exhausted; they set the scene for each tune by staring at us through evil eyes before a dark and sinister instrumental, or by dancing playfully with the lead singer and adding to the Rock Opera vibe. “Woo Woo” choruses allow the crowd to join in and an incursion into the audience kicks off a swirling mosh pit. ‘Oh Yeah’ induces arm waving before they walk off drenched in sweat.

They save the best for the encore – in a new jacket and seeming more composed, Sam sings 2nd album highlight ‘San Francisco’ and then digs out the epic Rolling Stones pastiche ‘Teenage Alien Blues’ from their first album… ebbing and flowing from mellow blues to crazy funk, leaving the audience knackered and happy, repeating the refrain “Feel Much Better”… which I’m sure most of us do. It’s comes as somewhat of a relief that the ride has stopped, sometimes it was a little too overwhelming, but what a ride.

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Peter Rea

I like to go see fresh new music at Manchester's superb selection of smaller venues, and then share my enthusiasm.