I admit I didn’t find out about FOALS until their 2010 release, Total Life Forever, but once I saw lead singer Yannis Philippakis singing about being the “fury in your head” amongst the most desolate, cold landscape I’ve seen in a while, I knew FOALS would be a mainstay in my music catalogue. They didn’t just occupy my playlist, they dominated it. Year after year, the albums came, and so did the band for their yearly NYC show to treat us to the live versions of the songs we’ve grown accustomed to singing in our showers or pillows at the top of our lungs. Fans were a bit shaken when longtime bassist Walter Gervers departed from the band, but with the release of Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost, Part 1, we were all reassured the band would not only be around for years to come, but will be a continuous force to be reckoned with.
Just like clockwork, FOALS returned to NY for 3 sold out shows at Brooklyn Steel and brought along 2 opening acts to whet our appetites for the main event. The first opener, Omni, who had just signed to SubPop Records earlier that day, kicked off the night. At the Atlanta band played on, I found myself positioned next to a young couple, who were already pretty wasted, yet still managed to dance around and have a great time. That’s sort of the beauty of Omni’s music though, there’s a melody in their post punk-pop sound for everyone to enjoy no matter how sloshed you may be. Next up were Calgary based band, Preoccupations, who I was first introduced to as Viet Cong. Despite the name change, the band’s post-punk bones remain strong, with lead singer Matt Flegel’s vocals taking center stage, anchored by Mike Wallace on drums. Just watching Mike’s hair fling around as he drummed was a show in itself, but he barely skipped a beat when he accidentally dropped a stick for a beat, recovering quickly without anyone barely noticing.
Finally, the long wait had come to an end and FOALS take the stage to deafening applause. I had moved closer to the soundboard to get the entire band in full view. The stage, adored with palm trees and the lighting flashing from deep magenta to violet, to hazy orange and red, the mood was set perfectly to highlight the brilliance of their latest release, and to pay homage to the tried and true hits that keep their fan-base firmly intact. Glancing around the room, seeing the hoards of fans near the barricade jumping and whipping themselves into a frenzy, near the back of the room, the two-stepping folks trying to dance as hard as possible without spilling their drink was equally as exciting to watch. The man next to me donned a Fyre Festival sweatshirt and nudged me to tell me to “make sure I let him know if he gets too out of hand.” I smiled and laughed. As FOALS headed into “My Number,” a drink landed on the floor behind me and I knew all bets were off. We’ve reached the point during a FOALS show where there’s no turning back.
The band was firing on all cylinders. Sure, we all missed Walter’s presence onstage, but thanks to Everything Everything’s Jeremy Pritchard, and the band’s sheer will and determination, they’ve already managed to become a solidified force. The waves of energy coming from the stage increased in their intensity as the night continued. Jimmy, dancing and hopping around, fed off the crowd mercilessly. Yannis, known for his stage diving and crowd surfing antics seemed be looking for the perfect time to launch himself into the inferno. Walking offstage into the crowd and realizing the steps to the balcony were too far, he turned back and returned to the stage, determined to find another way to connect with the crowd. Hands stretched far enough out from the crowd to make contact with Yannis and that was all the invitation he needed. In a smooth movement he was offstage again, and up into the crowd, clutching his microphone, but knowing FOALS fans would never drop him.
Every year the band returns to New York, they manage to find a way to combine both their old and newer songs into an experience that never gets old. It truly is a wonder to see bands like FOALS still playing a smaller venue like Brooklyn Steel at this point in their career. Having won the distinction of “Best Act In The World Today” at the 2015 Q Awards, I wonder how long it will take for that same sentiment to travel across the pond. If they keep cranking out albums like Everything Not Saved Will Be Lost, Part 1, and shows like this one at Brooklyn Steel, chances are it won’t be long.
Article: Lesley Keller