Fleet Foxes and Cave Singers at United Palace Theater, NYC [Concert Review]

by Woody on May 20, 2011

I’ve been reading The Emigrants by W.G. Sebald for graduate school this week. Sebald’s writing is descriptive and purposeful, his words gently reconstructing a world that exists only in memory. Like all great artists, Sebald trusts his audience, understanding that the reader has the power to interpret, the ability to perceive what lies behind the words on the page. Sebald, who died in a tragic car crash at the height of his prowess in 2001, also has the unique capacity to convey intimacy, as is illustrated in the following quote, “Doubtless we should have driven on without accomplishing a thing, if we had not summoned up the nerve, exchanging one of those swift glances, to at least take a look at the garden.” One of those swift glances. We’ve all experienced that type of intimacy. The kind where words are unnecessary, and a fleeting glance is all that is needed.

The Fleet Foxes, like Sebald, have that wonderful ability to convey intimacy through their art. This was abundantly clear this past Wednesday night as the boys from Seattle lit up the sold-out 3,000 seat United Palace Theater with one and a half hours of beautiful music. Touring hot on the heels of the release of their brilliant sophomore album, Helplessness Blues, Robin Pecknold and gang gave it to us raw, and the respectfully silent audience (apart from the heckling about lowering the bass, which they seemingly took seriously as the sound noticeably improved) ate up every moment.

For me, the evening was about two things; memory and intimacy. Robin Pecknold’s songs speak to both. The following lyrics in Drops in the River reveal both themes,

You hesitate so my memory fades. I’ll hold to the first one,
I wouldn’t turn to another you say, on the long night we’ve made,
Let it go.

The opening lines of Montezuma also grapple with memory and intimacy,

So now I am older,
Than my mother and father,
When they had their daughter,
Now what does that say about me.
Oh how could I dream of,
Such a selfless and true love,
Could I wash my hands of,
Just lookin out for me?

I caught the Fleet Foxes’ July, 2008 show at the Bowery Ballroom, one month before I married my best friend and the love of my life. I can only speculate through listening to his word what Robin Pecknold was going through then and now, but by providing us with a glimpse he draws us closer and reminds us of the centrality of memory and intimacy to the human experience. They are, indeed, all that we have and share.

One final note about the Fleet Foxes’ performance. During the second half of the set, I believe it was right after Ragged Wood (correct me if I’m wrong), the audience erupted in a spontaneous standing ovation that lasted for over a minute. It was a special moment that will stay in my memory for years to come.


The Cascades
Grown Ocean
Drops In The River
Battery Kinzie
Bedouin Dress
Sim Sala Bim
Your Protector
Tiger Mountain Peasant Song
White Winter Hymnal
Ragged Wood
He Doesn’t Know Why
The Shrine / An Argument
Blue Spotted Tail
Blue Ridge Mountains

Oliver James
Helplessness Blues

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the Cave Singers. Without going into much detail, they rock my world and I loved every moment of their opening set.

Video: Fleet Foxes – Montezuma/ He Doesn’t Know

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Graham Davis May 20, 2011 at 3:54 pm

I saw the Foxes at the Tabernacle in Atlanta one week ago, and I couldn’t agree more with your review of the show. They were absolutely unbelievable, and I loved wert second of it. The may have played the exact same setlist at my show as they did at yours, minus an impromptu tomahawk chop chant that Mu buddy and I started which was aided by the rhythmic skills of J. Tillman. I will definitely see these guys again given the chance.

Graham Davis May 20, 2011 at 3:55 pm

I apologize for the above spelling errors

Lindsay May 22, 2011 at 12:01 pm

I was also at this show and one thing is for certain, New York loves FF’s!

patrick May 23, 2011 at 10:34 am

That random standing O was such a great moment. I’ve been to thousands of concerts and never had anything like that happened. Very cool at an amazing concert.

FYI-I was at the Bowery show you mentioned as well. The hush from the crowd that night was unlike any other. Felt like my jaw was on the floor the whole show.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: