Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Foxygen @ Sebright Arms, London

Hoxton’s Sebright Arms is tucked away behind the main road, with an out of use front door and replacement alleyway entrance. Inside, it is filled to the brim with tables occupied by 20-somethings; in turn with either a beard or fringe, eating from an American menu or drinking from the tap. I manoeuvre my way through them, trying not to make it obvious that I have no clue where the show is actually taking place. Eventually I find a door, dressed with a ‘SOLD OUT’ poster. Down infinite flights of brightly lit stairwells is another door, behind which lays an intimate – to say the least – venue. Although in some ways it feels like I’ve theatrically descended down into hell, the room is cosy and, after some time, I have no intention of returning upstairs: the room has warmed to me (and physically warmed me).
Rather fittingly, with the room’s darkness and swirling lightshow, support act Wytches take to the stage. With a sound recalling doom metal, psychedelia and post punk, the band’s rhythm section provides a tight foundation upon which frontman and guitarist Kristian Bell shreds and gymnastically yelps. Their standout song and set closer cleverly plays off the lyric “swing like a pendulum”, gradually slowing down in tempo as its oscillation draws to an end. The performance is deafeningly loud, but a great warm up for what is to come. The spectacle is just beginning.

Before long, Foxygen take the stage. Occasionally with a new band, you get the sense that you’re incredibly lucky to be witnessing their live performance; that this is the start of something good; that before long, this band will be everywhere. Recently signed to Jagjaguwar, the current home of Bon Iver, Unknown Mortal Orchestra and Women, and having already gained great acclaim for 2011 EP Take The Kids Off Broadway, Foxygen are such a case. Although baby-faced, the band is unbelievably well informed on the music of the past, taking inspiration from the best moments of the 60s, 70s and 80s: if this band were to ‘wear their influences on their sleeve’, it would be of an unholy length.

Sam France and Jonathan Rado alternate between keyboard and 12-string guitar, as they storm through incredible new single ‘Shuggie’ and Broadway highlight ‘Make It Known’, for which France’s voice switches to a Lou Reed-like baritone. Each song is equally energetic, and between tracks the band engages in conversation with the crowd. “At school, they used to call me the retard: WELL HOW DO YOU LIKE ME NOW, MOM?” yells France, before informing us that “this song is about having your heartbroken... by a dolphin”. The crowd laugh to the point of tears, but are fully engrossed when it comes down to the music, and although small in numbers, a joyous atmosphere is built. They preview tracks from their upcoming record like ‘Destruction’ and set closer ‘San Francisco’, which features an appearance from a fairly bemused but sporting looking man named Ralph. They finish with France repeatedly hitting himself comically in the head with his microphone, and cheers and laughter disproportionate to the small audience. The audience has engaged and the band has entertained. An utterly brilliant performance.

William Hall

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