We went to a show!

One day while wandering around the internet, bored, I stumbled across a link to a band doing a cover of Suite Judy Blue Eyes, the Crosby Stills and Nash classic. The video was several years old (like 2010 or something) and the group performing it was called Foxes and Fossils. They were performing at a pizza place or something, TV screens visible in the background, folks coming and going, seemingly indifferent to the musicians. After introducing the song as a classic they began. And I was captivated. The musicianship and vocals were superb – professional – and from what appeared to be just a sort of family band, not even pros. A few friends getting together to play some music on occasion. And they were mind-blowingly good. The song note for note but not robotic, and the harmonies blended effortlessly. I was overjoyed.

I watched many of their other videos, all from the same restaurant and even in what appeared to be a parking lot of a taco joint, and all were just unbelievable. I wondered how such talent could be thrown away in some barely roped off parking lot – why weren’t they playing someplace of substance, commanding reasonably serious ticket prices? See (and hear) for yourself and I think you’ll agree.

I got very excited when Tim Purcell, the leader of the band, announced they were working on a reunion show. All of the members had pretty much gone their own ways; college, career, gigging around but not as F&F. Those days were gone it seemed. But COVID happened and millions of others were as bored as I was and stumbled upon this treasure trove too. 80 million views later it seemed there was actually a market for their music, even if they were “just” a cover band. One day the announcement came that a reunion show was going to happen. two nights in late December at some event venue in Hapeville. I had to look it up… I figured they would book the Fabulous Fox Theater or somewhere equally superior and capacious, but it was “The Legendary Ford Hall”, basically a place where weddings and such are held. Huh, go figure. And the tickets were $100 each. This I had planned on and was more than happy to pay, which is pretty amazing as I tend to bitch about ticket prices being insane for most every show I have any interest in. Hell, the B-52 shows were all like a buck fifty and higher, and that was for crappy seats.

We decided to make a thing of it and booked a hotel room for the night and planned (loosely) to go out to eat before the show. A regular date night! As most of you don’t know Saber and I, this was quite the event.

Everything leading up to the show was as expected, or at least not out of the ordinary. Traffic was horrible, I got lost a bit in Hapeville but we found the venue and a place to eat that was passably good (Mexican, nothing too fancy) and returned to the hotel to refresh and prepare for the big event.

Upon arrival they seemed to have things pretty well in hand; there were folks at the door scanning our digital tickets, we were directed to the general area of our seats (reserved but section and row only for some reason) and they were decent enough although I was concerned about the mix being any good from one side of the room. I am very sensitive to the sound quality for two reasons: one, I am a trained sound engineer and so I am of course critical of any mix that isn’t mine, and two (ironically) my hearing aids (stop laughing!) were uncertain as the “live music” setting was different than on my old ones and hadn’t been properly tested. But scoping out the equipment they had on hand and I was impressed. Line array speakers, hanging subs, and (gasp!) Digico mixing desks. Wow! This was Broadway level gear! Thus began the journey of strange contrasts that is the focus of this discourse.

Before the show I spotted some of the band wandering around the audience chatting folks up. It was a sold out house, which I was happy for as the energy is much better, and the Fossils seemed to be relaxed and ready to have fun. And that my friends was what they had – fun. It was all so casual but still serious. I mean, they were charging real money for this show, although I would bet that a quarter of the audience was friends and family and had come the night before too.

At this point in time (today is Wednesday and the show was last Friday) I don’t remember the set list or really hardly any song in particular, other than they didn’t play either Aimee or Suite: Judy Blue Eyes. I’ll come back to that in a minute. I noticed several things (besides the fact that my hearing aids just SUCK for live music) First, the whole thing teetered on the edge of being a backyard get together of friends playing music (quite well) and a professional performance. That was the charm of it, completely without pretense or affectation. They were all truly genuine; obviously talented but humble. Accessible.

I noticed – mostly because I have experienced it playing live with others – that even though the drummer counted off the start to a song they were often ever so slightly tentative – just a bit off at the start of several tunes. On one occasion they never really found the groove and it was weird. But on the others, in spite of a janky start, they quickly found the pocket and just killed. Back yard fooling around, not quite all there, to world class. All in a couple of measures.

F&F is really a vocal group that play instruments, and their pipes were dialed in. I adore multi-part harmonies and the closing song, Seven Bridges Road by the Eagles, completely delivered and was truly satisfying. Which leads me to my two chief (and valid) complaints. First: Darwin, ALWAYS BRING A BACKUP GUITAR! Your fussing with your acoustic was annoying, distracting, and completely unnecessary. And second, why on earth didn’t y’all do Aimee or Suite: Judy Blue Eyes? WHY WHY WHY?!? To be completely honest, the latter was the one song I really wanted to hear. Dammit. Maybe next time. And I really hope there is a next time. I’ll still pay a hundred.

Sadly, it is unlikely I will attend a live show again unless I can figure out my ears. It’s just painful, uncomfortable, and frustrating in the extreme to not hear what there is to be heard, and on top of it some weird transient clanging that is obviously the damn things clipping. Grrrrr.

If you haven’t already, please check out Foxes and Fossils on YouTube. You’ll be glad you did. And maybe I’ll see you at the next show!

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