Every Rocktographer has a Bucket List™. Mine has had Foals on it since the first time I saw them perform at Sub Pop’s 20th Anniversary Party several years ago. It also had “officially shoot a concert at the world famous Commodore Ballroom.” Of course, I’d do anything for the opportunity to cross two of them off the Bucket List™ at the same time.
Vancouver’s rambunctious indie rockers, JPNSGRLS, took the stage as sunlight still poured in through the windows that line the walls of The Commodore Ballroom. The band would only be opening up the first night of two sold out shows at the venue, being replaced by Bear Hands the following night. It was clear that JPNSGRLS wanted to make a lasting impression with the crowd.
There is no one quite like JPNSGRLS’ frontman, Charlie Kerr, in the BC music scene. Filled with a wiry and frantic energy, it’s hard not to draw connections to the likes of Gord Downie. There isn’t a moment he isn’t weaving between band members, interacting with people pushing against the front barrier, or doing an unplanned choreographed number that blends perfectly with his lyrics. The band’s post-pop punk anthems like Bully For You and Smalls shone brightly. Clearly, the band was the right choice to open for Foals as, every single time they perform, is been utterly unique and unforgettable.
There is a sort of unspoken rule in the music industry when it comes to shooting concerts. Ask any concert photographer what it is. They will all say “First Three. No Flash.” Heck, Rocktographers made some super cool t-shirts and stickers with this on them (available online soon).
So, when Foals says “Last Three. No Flash.” You know you are in for something intense. Last three is the dream for most concert photographers. It is basically when the band is warmed up, sweaty, ready to do some crazy stuff, and the lighting is the best. It also means you get to enjoy 90% of the concert before being whisked out into the streets and home to edit photos.
Oxford’s Foals played a well-rounded set that touched on their four-album discography, but leaned heavily on their latest two records, Holy Fire and What Went Down. It was easy to spot recent converts to the band from veteran fans who relished every moment of math rock goodness that came from Antidotes and Total Life Forever.
The crowd heaved as the floors of The Commodore Ballroom bounced. The dance floor directly in front of the stage was a frenzied state of moshing, sweat, crowd surfing, and some guy with no pants on. A crazed sense of community that only comes from likeminded music fans at sold out shows. It was clear from the smiles on Yannis Philippakis and company that they relished every moment of it.
It was songs like Spanish Sahara, but most notably Providence where the band truly shone. Languorously building walls of sound mixed with tragedy that exploded upon climax filling concert-goers with a sense of relief. At one point guitarist Jimmy Smith played his guitar with a beer glass before launching it over keyboardist Edwin Congreave to shatter behind him.
Throughout the night, lead-singer Yannis teased the crowd. Getting closer and closer to them with each song. Tempting them with what was to come. It wasn’t until the final song, an extended version of Two Step, Twice he put down his guitar and dove into the crowd. At one point walking over a sea of hands before falling back and riding the waves of fingers back to the safety of stage.
Foals was the best concert I’ve seen in a very long time, and I’ve seen a lot of very good concerts in the last year. High energy, complicated and interesting music, and a stage presence that is unrivalled. This is a band that should be headlining festivals like Rifflandia here in Victoria, BC. A slight diversion off our version of the mainstream, but obviously big enough to sell out The Commodore Ballroom two nights in a row.