Live at Brudenell Social Club on Friday, 8th May 2015
I was giddy about Friday. I had been since I heard Foxygen were coming to town. I thought they may be a level or two too zany for Mrs Pickle's respectably traditional indie-kid bent but I needn't have worried. The night ended with big grins and us bandying about verdicts like "Possibly the best thing I've ever seen".
As we queued I spotted Sweet Baboo (Stephen Black). I then learned why that was. He plays with H. Hawkline from time to time. Brilliant! "Ships" is never off my playlists so as unexpected bonuses go, this was up there. And then they started to play.
From the off you could hear how good they are. Three songs in I'd decided I was at my gig of the year so far. No pretensions and super tight. With barely a pause between songs, save for a dash of friendly chat and the occasional swig of water to soothe a curry-related reflux issue, the energy (to say nothing of the skill) was what I go to gigs for.
How to describe H. Hawkline AKA Huw Evans and pals' sound. Captivating and fresh would be without overstatement. Bloody brilliant would be me not trying hard enough. There's a pop sensibility to the songs but the edges are deftly gilded with a jaunty, barbed energy transforming them into something much more. This based on one outstanding set and a couple of listens to last year's (Cate Le Bon produced) "In the Pink of Condition" which I picked up straight after the performance and while Huw's pick was still warm.
Don't miss the chance to see H. Hawkline play. I'll be doing whatever I need to see him again. For me it wasn't like I'd seen a support act there to warm the place up. By the end of the night it felt more like a double-headliner, albeit two very different bands.
Time passed slowly as we waited for Foxygen. Anticipation does that. The room busy with a typically eclectic Brudenell home crowd; the vibe increasingly surreal owing to suitably odd fairground music. And then, beamed in from another universe and before waiting became waiting too long, there they were. All nine of them!
Lots of words go some way to describing what followed but even collectively they seem to fall short of telling the full story. This wasn't just a gig, it was a performance. The show was theatrical, sexy and flamboyant. The music was big, full and perky. Foxygen were playful and loving, causing jaws to drop and smiles to beam throughout. A few times, flashes of the best 8 minutes on youtube (an in-their-prime live performance of Rock Lobster by the B-52's) came into my head. That was probably down to the choreography and backing vocals as well as the spirit at play.
The songs as they appear on the albums are enough to draw you in but in the flesh the dimensions increase and they take on a life of their own. Any shades of Garage, Psychedelia, Soul, Glam and big band you get from listening at home are multiplied when Sam France, Jonathan Rado and company blast them at you from a stage.
Tracks I was waiting for like Shuggie and How Can You Really were even better than I expected but the standout for me was On Blue Mountain which was a gigantic version of itself: the vampish daughter of Under my Thumb and Suspicious Minds. I'm the first to admit I'm easily excited by something so good but seriously - it was one of the best things I've ever seen at a gig. I was looking forward to San Francisco (my introduction to Foxygen via Marc Riley on 6Music) too but rather than play it live, a quirky speeded-up recording formed an interlude while everybody left the stage to catch their breath before coming back out for more.
I've had plenty of really good nights at Brudenell but this was a different league. I'll be rambling on about this to anyone who'll listen for a while to come. With only a couple more UK dates to go and then a European jaunt including festival season, I'm trying to decide how far I'd actually go to see them again.