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Sunday, July 27, 2008

Living Up to the Hype

posted by on July 27 at 11:44 AM

This weekend was Seattle’s chance to see three of the most hyped bands in the country all in one spot. Vampire Weekend, No Age, and Fleet Foxes, thanks in part to the unanimously positive attention they’ve been getting from music trend authoritarians Pitchfork, are three of the most talked about names in music, and now that we’ve had a chance to see all three in one weekend, we can try to make sense of that hype.

Before Block Party my opinions of these bands were thus: I did not care for Vampire Weekend, was on the fence about No Age, and was quite fond of Fleet Foxes. I’ve actually been pretty adamant about not liking Vampire Weekend. Seeing them live did indeed raise my opinion of the band: After a long day of drinking and dancing their headlining set was comfortingly innocuous. I still have no desire to listen to their record again (tried several times), but in concert they were fun and whimsical, a simple melody that everyone could enjoy without having to think too hard about it. I see Vampire Weekend as the new Sublime (imagine when they were still a band, before the singer died): So-Cal stoners have been replaced with Upper East Side Ivy Leaguers making breezy summer jams appropriated from black culture. The target demographic is altered, but the aim is very much the same. Just imagine Vampire Weekend doing a cover of “Santeria.” It totally works.

No Age didn’t actually play the Block Party, but they did perform Friday night on the same block. Like Vampire Weekend, I have yet to understand the “brilliance” of their recorded work, but that’s mostly due to the fact that I think the audio quality of Nouns is crappy. At the super sweaty “Secret Show” I was finally able to make a little more sense of this band, and what it took was some context. No Age have to be loud and in your face. Their performance relies on the crowd being a part of the experience, actively participating and not just watching. They are DIY incarnate, the spirit of the grunge sound they employ. I can’t say my appreciation for their songwriting has changed, but that’s because it hardly seemed like they were playing songs. It was a wash of distorted riffs and drums and muffled yells, the band standing one foot in front of everybody, sweat flying everywhere. And it was great, in that context. It would seem No Age have no real desire to be the next big thing. They don’t want to play on the main stage unless they have to. Real shows, real underground culture, happens separate from the festivals, and that is perhaps the only context in which No Age make real sense. Here’s to hoping their ethos remains true.

It’s no secret how much I enjoy Fleet Foxes. Of the massively hyped bands, I believe they alone deserve every bit of that attention. Their set yesterday was unsurprisingly perfect, the vocal harmonies reverberating through the streets like a mild tranquilizer. In trying to figure out exactly why I like this band so much the explanation came in the form of a lot of my answers – from Lord of the Rings. I was waiting in line for the porta potty with Larry Mizell while Fleet Foxes were playing, and I asked him what he thought of the band. He sort of shrugged his shoulders and said, “It’s not my thing.” I asked him what class he considered himself; he thought about if momentarily and answered, “Half Thief, half Elf.” “This is Elf music! You should love this!” I sort of yelled at him (I’d been drinking). “Well what are you?” he asked back. “Half Hobbit, half Dwarf.” Then it all made sense. Hobbits and Dwarves idolize the Elves. They are entranced by everything about them. Fleet Foxes are obviously Elvin minstrels from the woods of Lorien. Elves have never been particularly impressed with their own kind (although some would argue too impressed). Animosity from the race of Men stems purely from jealousy. But for the rest of us, the songs of the Elves are timeless and beautiful, and worthy of great praise.

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To further this thread, I would deem the King Cobra stage last night, the Mines of Moria: once, possibly bountiful and technologically superior but now resigned to decay and overrun by uh, you know.. staff.

Posted by lord | July 27, 2008 12:00 PM

i decided i'm actually more of a dwarf with a lot of elf friends.

chaotic neutral

Posted by lar | July 27, 2008 2:00 PM

Sounds like somebody's been dipping into that Shire weed...

Posted by Eric Grandy | July 27, 2008 2:08 PM

Actually, Jeff, the Dwarves and the Elves had quite the tumultuous history--using the word "idolize" to categorize their relationship is tenuous at best. Their fabled feud is outlined in Tolkien's history of Middle Earth, The Silmarillion (you might recall Gimli's underlying hostility towards Legolas in the first part of the Trilogy). In fact, the Elves were quite fond of the Dwarves' discovery of mithril, and sought heartily to obtain it from them.

But, yes, Fleet Foxes are great.

Posted by LB | July 27, 2008 2:26 PM

You're absolutely right, LB. I was thinking specifically of Gimli's love for the Lady Galadirel. It was the Hobbits who idolized the Elves once they met them.

Posted by Jeff Kirby | July 27, 2008 3:47 PM

Yes, there is no doubt that Gimli was fully entranced by the Lady of the Wood. All the little guy wanted was a shock of her golden hair...

Posted by LB | July 27, 2008 4:20 PM

i've been listening to fleet foxes while reading the silmarillon and it is incredible; you are absolutely right

Posted by yes | July 27, 2008 5:43 PM

"i've been listening to fleet foxes while reading the silmarillon and it is incredible"

Try 3 Inches of Blood instead, they're total D&D Hobbit Rock.

Posted by ihatethefleetfoxes | July 27, 2008 10:47 PM

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