Oxford band Foal‘s show at the Kool Haus on Saturday was as expected, a wild and energetic affair that left the packed crowd abuzzed and rocking. In town to promote their third album – Holy Fire, Foal’s tight set had many highlights but lets just take a look at one for now. Yannis Philippakis is the lead vocalist of Foals. Ask any girl who is a fan of the band and they will instantly swoon at the mention of this bearded man, who always seem to be on the verge of chaos during a show. He also loves to wander during his set. I still remember the Lee’s Palace gig when he decided to start playing guitar from the back of the Lee’s Palace bar. Venue exploration is a hobby of his.
Let’s take a look at the Kool Haus.
Above you will see the term Bro Pct. This means percentage of crowd that consists of bro’s for any type of rock show at the Kool Haus. Because the exit is on stage right, you will see that the Bro Percentage is higher near the door because, really, why bother going to the other side. Take a look at this layout, it is important. Since Foals is now recognized as a full out rock band (and not a nerdy numbers act, as was previously thought), there were quite a handful of crowd surfers throughout the show. I mean, why not? With Holy Fire, Foal’s have slowly become more of a tighter, groovier and more dance-able rock act.
The legions of crowd surfers surely inspired Yannis to take a trip to the crowd. His first attempt, however, was misguided. Armed with his wireless guitar, Yannis took to the crowd near stage left, where it was mostly people who wanted to dance and be close, but also avoid injury at the hands of a crowd surfer or a bunch of bro’s in Hollister shirts. Here is the route that Yannis took:
Going for the classic Springsteen crowd surf while playing guitar move, Yannis went above the barrier and with no hesitation, heaved himself into the arms of his fans and … dropped. Even I wasn’t surprised, there are some factors that are needed for a successful crowd surf:
a) lots of guys
b) high density area
It should be noted that the Kool Haus, while packed, was not closed to sold out. This means that people had space, which means low density. Combine that with the not high percentage of bro’s, and you can see why this move failed. However, Yannis was undeterred. During another song, he once again took to the crowds.
This time, it was more towards the middle and Yannis actually took the time to wait for a crowd to come closer before launching himself. It was a moderate success as he managed to play a few notes on before it all fell apart and oh boy, when it fell apart, the crowd around him dropped like dominoes. You ever watch wrestling when there’s a bunch of people fighting outside the ring and then some light weight dude climbs a turnbuckle and jumps onto the crowd and everyone falls down? that’s what it seemed like. Still, the crowd loved it.
Detour: So as the show goes on, Yannis decides to do something I have almost never seen before. He gets off stage during a guitar solo, walks to the side, goes to the bar, orders a drink, drinks half of it and throws the rest at the crowd:
I personally think he did this because he was scouting the crowd to see what he can actually do, and where he can actually go. Finally, as the Foals set came to a conclusion he finally succeeded with his crowd surfing.
As you would expect, this time, Yannis not only waited for a crowd to form, but the the crowd was also prepared for the task of hoisting the man up for him to do his glorious guitar while crowd surfing move. Taking stage right, Yannis approached the guard rail, saw the large percentage of bros, waited as they packed themselves close together and then without a single hesitation, leaped into the air and landed on the hands of his fans (and not the ground). If anything, it just goes to show, if at first you don’t succeed, try again.
Oh yeah, the show was awesome.