This review should not just be about Foxygen.
It should be about the whole slate of artists that played on Saturday at the Solid Sound Festival at Mass MOCA. It should be about festival hosts, Wilco, one of our great American musical exports. For almost two decades, Wilco has put out a string of consistently great albums with an ever-developing sound that draws on classic country, free jazz, as much Carter Family as it is Ornette Coleman.
Foxygen has just a single album to offer, and its performance on Saturday was just a shuffling of their limited repertoire. Musically, they didn’t offer the versatility or range of the forebears who graced the other two larger stages.
But this is about Foxygen. This is about the type of musical performance that leaves your mouth hanging open, that makes your heart race, that makes you excited to dissect over and over with your friends what you just witnessed. It was actually painful to endure their sheer volume so close to the stage, and yet we were planted firmly in place the entire time. They play relentless sonic riffs that feel like you’re racing a highway in a muscle car and then there is a pause as the whole group shifts into a Broadway-style interlude before slipping again into gearhead mode.
A large part of the Foxygen experience centers around lead singer Sam France. At first, it seemed sheer theatrics, the way he possessed the stage. He dramatically waved his body at us, clad in a 1970s frock, and leaped off the monitors. Then it got darker.
France climbed the corner of the stage, making it sway, until a security guard ripped him off and they stood nose to nose on stage as the guitars swirled raucously in the background. He wrapped the microphone cord around his neck like a noose and never missed a beat as he sang into it. He flailed and thrashed on his back.
Improbably, every song sounded great, with hints of The Stooges, Devendra Banhardt, even a touch of Queen.
In the crowd, people wondered if he was on acid. They wanted to give him a hug, to calm him down.
“The whole thing is scripted; we know what we’re doing,” he offered at one point with a sly grin. Liar.
Here’s video of the incident with the security guard: