Music note: The Fleet Foxes, stellar sellouts

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Sometimes it’s a good thing when a band sells out. For instance, on Saturday night at Minneapolis’s Cedar Cultural Center, young up-and-coming band Fleet Foxes packed the house for not one, but two shows on the same night—prompting some audience members to jokingly accuse the band of being “sellouts.” The Fleet Foxes’ “indie cred” is far from being tainted, though, as the Seattlers have been darlings of the music scene ever since they released their first full-length LP earlier this year. Their unique brand of rootsy harmonies and rock-laced folk has gained them a wide variety of fans, many of whom attended not only the Cedar’s 5:30 show but also the 8:30 performance.

Old-timey folk artist Frank Fairfield opened both shows. The young man was equally impressive on the banjo, guitar, and fiddle. Though it was difficult to make out most of the words of the songs due to Fairfield’s mumbling diction, he definitely had soul. From his appearance and low-fi bluesy sound, Fairfield gave the impression that he could have been hanging down at the crossroads with Robert Johnson just the other day.

Fleet Foxes took the stage next, with lead singer Robin Pecknold immediately engaging in small talk with the audience. His banter throughout the show was one of the more entertaining and strange aspects of the night. Pecknold and various members of the audience discussed, amongst other things, bird songs, the difference between Minneapolis and St. Paul, and the Twin Cities’ zoos. When a good-natured heckler requested that he play “that one song,” Pecknold began playing the opening bars of “Freebird,” to the audience’s amusement.

Since the Fleet Foxes’ current catalog is only about 16 songs deep, everyone knew what to expect on the playlist. The band covered almost all of their self-titled LP, as well as some material from their EP Sun Giant. Highlights of the set included an amazing rendition of “White Winter Hymnal” and a stunning “Your Protector.” The band specializes in complex three-part vocal harmonies, and everyone’s voice was dead on target.

Chances are, next time the Fleet Foxes come to town they will play somewhere much bigger than the Cedar. The band have leapt forward in popularity so quickly that their last visit this past summer, at the 7th Street Entry, probably only attracted a fifth of the number of people who came to see them this time around. Next time they’ll surely have to play a supersized club like First Avenue. For lucky Twin Cities fans, though, Saturday night was a chance to see a fabulous band in the intimate confines of a small club for one last time.

Jon Behm is a Minneapolis-based photographer and writer. While his specialty is music, Jon has a wide variety of interests that tend to take him all over the Twin Cities on a daily basis.