Concert Review: Foxygen, May 9, Wrongbar


As I’m sure the members of Foxygen can attest, SXSW can be a pretty crazy, hectic time. If a band impresses there, it can be a career making performance, but luckily the fact that it’s such a chaotic time can also work to a band’s advantage if they put on a less than stellar show. And so, despite some negative reviews (including Ricky’s for this very site) and reports (and video) of singer Sam France having a mini-breakdown onstage, I was not going to give up on these guys. Their latest album is an impressive enough amalgam of all the right retro influences that I really wanted to see what they’re capable of live. I’d like to say they redeemed themselves at their Wrongbar gig  and showed that they are capable of greatness … but no.

What transpired onstage devolved fairly quickly from a sloppy yet energetic set into a full on self indulgent mess of noise and shouting interspersed with long pauses between songs. The problem was not that it was loose and noisy and weird. In fact, I often like loose, noisy and weird. Openers Crumbs (who shared a couple members with Foxygen) did loose, noisy and weird much better than did the headliners. At times it almost felt like an Andy Kaufman-esque prank with France asking for a hammer from the crowd so he could bash his head in til he forgets all the lyrics, shouting out “Jesus is the lord” on stage and lots of time wasted between songs. I was left wondering what was behind all this.  Were they doing it on purpose?  Was intoxication a factor?  Is Joaquin Phoenix the secret Svengali-like manager behind the band?  Are these guys OK or what?  It was a bad performance, but in some ways fascinatingly so.  They almost seemed determined to fail.

As I watched the band, I couldn’t help but think of The Replacements, another band who were also known in their day for putting out brilliant albums while also delivering sloppy, drunken hit and miss live performances.   However, unlike The Replacements (whose sloppy, drunken performances at least seemed like they might have been kind of fun), I don’t necessarily see Foxygen’s mess of a live show helping to build their mystique like the Minneapolis legends did back in the day. Nor is Foxygen doing their current reputation any good.

By the end of their set, the sold out (?) crowd at Wrongbar had thinned out considerably and by the time the band left the stage, practically no one was waiting for an encore. Most filed out quickly without looking back while a few stragglers hung back, perhaps hoping to congratulate the emperor on his new clothes.

Posted on by Paul in Concerts