PNW natives Fleet Foxes return to Portland, harmonies and man-buns still wholly intact

On the night of Sept. 17, a rare phenomena occurred: not one flannel-wearing, vinyl-buying hipster could be found in the city of Portland. They had all flocked en masse to the Fleet Foxes concert at McMenamin’s Edgefield Amphitheater in Troutdale, Oregon. The indie folk band, comparable to Bon Iver and The Shins, emerged in June after a seemingly-endless five-year hiatus with the release of their new album “Crack-Up.”

Led by singer-songwriter and guitarist Robin Pecknold, Fleet Foxes released its second EP, “Sun Giant,” in 2008, featuring their hit song “Mykonos.” The same year, they released their self-titled album, featuring two of their other hits: “White Winter Hymnal” and “Blue Ridge Mountains.” Both albums were well-received in the U.S. but fared even better in the U.K. and Europe. Fleet Foxes released one more album, “Helplessness Blues,” before taking their five-year break.

Although the band’s sound is quite different on its new album, it has also been highly acclaimed since its release.

“They changed so much since their last album,” concert attendee and diehard Fleet Foxes fan Emma Teering ’20 said. “After their five year break, they sound so different, but in a very good way. Their newer music is more technically complicated. It feels almost like a different band, although I love both styles.”

The band balanced their setlist with both new and old music, appealing to listeners who are not as familiar with their recent album. They also encorporated covers such as Jackson C. Frank’s “Blues Run the Game” and Leon Bridges’ “Rivers,” delicately intertwining them with their own songs.

“They really work hard to create harmonies,” Maya Leib-Perry ’20 said. “Their songs all sound similar yet they have unique qualities in each song. They are obviously all very musically talented. I mean, one of the guys played literally every instrument. He was playing instruments I had never even seen before.”

The band member to whom Leib-Perry alluded to actually switched instruments between every song, playing the cello, trumpet and flute, just to name a few. Frontman Pecknold also alternated between various types of guitars. He finally broke a string on his acoustic guitar towards the end of the show but switched guitars without missing a single beat. The band’s large variety of instruments and songs made their performance even more interesting and captivating for the audience.

In addition to their musical talent, Fleet Foxes has style up the wazoo. In traditional hipster style, Pecknold sported a man-bun, while lead guitarist Skyler Skjelset rocked Harry Potter glasses. For the majority of the show, symmetrical moving patterns were projected in the background. However, when playing some of their older, slower hits, more meditative backgrounds such as stars or mountains were shown.

Pecknold charmed the audience through his genuine commentary. Between each song, he sipped on what he revealed to be “Throat Coat” tea, only adding to his charm. The band’s excitement to be back on the stage shined throughout their performance.

For many, seeing Fleet Foxes live was a truly transcendental experience.

“My life has lead up to this moment,” Teering said after their performance.

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