Singer Sam France has never been one to shy away from theatrics. Californian experimental pop-rock duo Foxygen (completed by producer and multi-instrumentalist Jonathan Rado) returned to Austin on Friday, April 14th to deliver an emotionally charged performance to a sold out crowd at The Mohawk. After opening with three tracks from 2013’s We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic, Foxygen tackled the majority of their new material. The band’s fifth full-length, Hang, collects its grandeur from the days of America’s early industrial era: big band brass, jazzy interludes, ragtime bounce, and broadway level-storytelling. The duo amped up their 7-piece backing band with the album’s first single “Follow the Leader”, with the catchy hook and horns insisting “The leader is you.”
France, in all his crop-top, pale faced and aviator shaded glory, revels in his role as a hopeful enigmatic front man. Jonathan Rado made for a solid partner in crime over the course of the evening, bouncing from guitar to keys, and joining female vocalist Jackie Cohen across the stage on the mic. The fragility of the France’s personal life is exposed on the twangy-piano ballad “On Lankershim” (named after one of the main drags in North Hollywood), where Sam admits, “And it all but seems my lifetime dreams have ended, and I know some people hope they won’t come true.” The song recalls Gram Parson’s “Return of the Grievous Angel”, frolicking though Los Angeles’ rootsy dust. The dense confusion of modernity becomes a caricature of the group’s L.A. roots: broken dreams, Hollywood suicide, and fading optimism.
The pinnacle was reached on the vaudevillian moments of “America”, a baroque circus of orchestral breakdowns suggesting that we’ve been clowning ourselves all along. “If you’re already there, you’re already dead if you’re living in America”. The group will finish out their summer tour with an appearance at San Francisco’s Outside Lands Festival this August.
Review by Lindsay Krause.