As April 20 was taking its final puffs, the Cat’s Cradle in Carrboro was making the most of it as Foxygen took the stage. The psychedelic indie rock duo, comprised of Jonathan Rado and Sam France, opened with their second album’s title track, “We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic.” The crowd immediately began to vibe with the band’s eclectic sound as they had just been hyped up by Australian artist, Gabriella Cohen, with her trippy waves and lyrics.
Gabriella Cohen, formerly front woman for The Furrs, is now touring with her own band off her solo album, “Full Closure and No Details.” She mesmerizes audiences with her musical style that reigns inspiration from the Velvet Underground and other experimental bands of that era.
She weaves a unique mixture of instruments that come together as if they were created to ride the same sound wave. Her metaphoric lyrics make you think, such as, “If you’re a plum, not everyone may like you because not everyone likes plums. So, you might think you want to become a banana, but if you do that, you’ll just be a second-rate banana because you’re really just a plum.”
Her musical choices tug on your emotions, manipulating your feelings from song to song, playing them like the guitar she strums. Her opening act established the tone for what was to come.
Intermission after Cohen was lively as ever, as the anticipation for Foxygen’s presence grew more people packed in. The crowd began to migrate towards the front forcing those who were already there to get cozy with everyone else. The silhouettes of Lemmy Kilmister, from Motorhead, and Warren Zevon, who look out upon the sea of concert junkies at every Cat’s Cradle concert, become more defined as the lights dimmed and the crowd buzzed with excitement. The trumpet players along with Jonathan Rado took the stage and readied their instruments. Then, out came Sam France in his white makeup with the iconic shaggy hair and aviators. His pants echoed the “Sticky Fingers” album cover, which was simultaneously amusing and perturbing.
Foxygen hails from Westlake Village, California and was conceived Sam France and Jonathan Rado at 15, which lead to their formation in 2005. Since then, they have released four albums and a plethora of self-released EPs. They got their big break in 2011, after they handed a CD of their homemade work they mixed the same day and gave it to music producer and visionary, Richard Swift. They had long been fans of his work and caught him after one of his shows in New York. Swift listened, and now four albums later Foxygen is mass producing their avant-garde music and taking the California psyche scene by storm. They have upgraded from their home equipment to a full 40-piece orchestra for their most recent album, “Hang,” which was released in late January of 2017. “Hang” also features collaborations with the Flaming Lips and the Lemon Twigs.
The single from this album, “Follow the Leader,” makes use of the orchestra giving their new album a theatrical-stoic vibe that Electric Lights Orchestra would be proud of. Their performance at the Cradle consisted of three songs from their previous albums, then “Hang” from start to finish. France commands the stage like a theater performer. The way he moves with the music encourages the audience to let loose and have a good time. Sam France and his female singer counterpart, who was dressed as a ballerina, made several costume changes which were filled by Rado’s wicked guitar solos. At one point, Rado propped himself up on a piano and shredded for what seemed like an eternity. Trumpet and trombone players in the background provided the funky undertone that Foxygen is all about.
They ended with four encore songs that the audience was begging for. A friend of mine who has been a big fan for a long time was in total awe the entire show, thinking, “Wow, that’s f*cking Foxygen.”