Authors Note: I wrote this a few months back, immediately after seeing them at Pickathon. I’m still not entirely convinced it wasn’t Foxygen I saw that day.
The first day. The Woods Stage. I see two guys who look like the band Foxygen sitting on rows of straw. One guy with curly hair and a blonde guy next to him. The two of them know each other so well the way they sit there. I am walking with my kids. It’s the middle of Destroyer’s set.
What the hell.
“Are you guys in Foxygen?” I say.
The look the curly hair guy gives me says nothing. He’s not annoyed, he holds my attention there.
“Nope.” he says.
They were mocking me. There was no sign that they were mocking me, but give me an empty canvas of paranoia I’ll draw all over it.
“You sure?” I said.
The look on his face, a smile but not quite a smile.
“Sorry man, can’t help you.”
“My Bad.” I said. I grab my kids hands. I walk away.
I knew it was them. I checked his face with all the photos I’ve seen in magazines.
Takes me two days to figure it out. Those two guys, they weren’t Foxygen. The blonde guy definitely wasn’t and the curly haired guy, the Foxygen keyboard player had more hair.
Foxygen played twice at Pickathon. For the first night’s show Foxygen were too high. They had 9 members on a tiny stage in a barn. They couldn’t get their equipment to work. Don’t know if they even finished the set. Didn’t talk to one person who stuck around.
Two days later, they are on the main stage. It’s late afternoon. The emcee comes up on stage and says.“We want them to put on a great show for you guys.”
Foxygen come out and the lead singer has silver pants that droop at the butt. He’s got a teal top, long hair. He’s doing kicks, he’s running around the stage. Only there’s no sound coming from the microphone, and there’s no keyboards. The backup singers sing just fine, but they are the support. There is a technician working with the keyboard player. The lead singer is tired of waiting and does a flying front kick to head backstage.
For about 5 minutes there is no music. Just the sound of the crowd.
Then the lead singer comes back out.
“Thanks for being soooo patient,” he says “this is my first time doing comedy.”
That’s the moment when I see Andy Kaufman in the wrestling ring. Maybe it’s performance art. Maybe it’s the pressure of being on tour and everyone around you giving a shit about putting on a good show. Foxygen got their sound back, they go through the motions for the rest of the set. But the brilliant mad cap band on record is nowhere to be found. They are putting on a show, it’s just not about the music.
This show is a farce because our expectations of them are a farce. They built this elaborate set up with back up singers and nine people on stage, it isn’t supposed to work.
The Foxygen I knew and loved on their album We are the 21st Ambassadors of Peace and Magic aren’t here. This isn’t them. They aren’t Foxygen
Maybe this show was supposed to be Art at its highest levels, fucking with people’s expectations. But at a festival sandwiched among great bands, when they were the only shitty one, when even their most transcendent songs fall flat, like they aren’t even trying, I don’t see it as performance art, I see it as a waste.
Foxygen, I still love you.
And I still can’t wait to hear the new album.
Foxygen’s new record, “…And Star Power” comes out October 14th. From what I’ve heard, it’s going to be as good as the last one. Give their records a shout. I know, I confuse. But that’s kind of who they are.