|Anyone else want to jump up here and join us?|
Will you still need me, will you still feed me, on Day Sixty-Four?
Paying ten dollars apiece at the top of the stairs at the venerable Sons of Hermann Hall, we went to go hear the old-timey, revivalist, neo-swing sounds of Fox and The Bird. There were around 325 people in attendance. And there were seven people up on stage, playing a variety of instruments: guitar, banjo, fiddle, drums, ukulele, perhaps a lute, accordion, even some kind of thumb piano or something. We aren't instrument experts.
We met Philip Peeples of the Old 97's there, and admired his Working Class Beard.
Starting with their self-titled theme song, Fox and the Bird blended both male and female voices into folksy harmonies over revivalist folk. Sometimes the singer affected a kind of high nasal bluegrass twang, but thankfully this did not happen often. They played well, but both of us found them a bit bland, somehow. Yes, there were a lot of people on stage playing a lot of notes, but there was an energy lacking. To engage us they needed a high-stepping shuffling beat, but this failed to materialize. Instead we got a lot of the same kind of low-key folk. Even the trumpet, when it came, was not the blaring foxtrot-inducing, jump-jive-an'-wail that we had hoped.
We lost what little interest we had when shushing began. One of the female singers was about to start a solo, with lute, and apparently the audience was talking or something. Being shushed at concerts is one of our pet peeves (one time we were shushed at a Leonard Cohen concert and nearly got into an altercation). We have no idea whether the band or their zealous fans started this particular instance, of course, but look, our position is: you have the mike. Sing loud, and sing something interesting. If you're engaging, we'll stop talking. Until then, we paid to be here, so play on.
Of course your mileage may vary. As noted, there were over 300 people there, about half female, and about a third with hipster beards. Clearly this is the kind of music liked by people who like this sort of thing. Perhaps if you enjoy the sort of musical stylings such as are featured on the Garrison Keillor show, you will find Fox and the Bird to be the bee's knees, the cat's pyjamas, etc.
In sum: Though Fox and the Bird showed themselves to be very good at what they do, we found it to be the same thing repeatedly, and not too engaging in the first place. Sometimes more people means less creativity: the band leans on the crutch of its ability to play lots of notes. We felt FatB sacrificed songcraft on the altar of revivalism. Nothing wrong with revivalism per se, of course; the Squirrel Nut Zippers, for example, are revivalists with fun, catchy songs. We don't demand that bands play fun and catchy material, either. Tom Waits, Palace, and Leonard Cohen, for example, move you with the power of the dark. But FatB are neither fun nor dark, just rather bland.