Kinda surprised they didn’t play Freebird.

It’s getting harder and harder to tick bands off my live music bucket list. That wasn’t intended as gloating. The issue is that I’m not nearly as exploratory with music as I once was. It takes a shit ton of effort to keep on top of new releases, especially when there’s so much fucking content coming out all the time. How am I supposed to hear and absorb new music when every artist I loved back in ’08-’10 has a 2017 release? Fleet Foxes, Grizzly Bear, Dirty Projectors, Broken Social Scene, Sigur Rós, Japandroids, Spoon, The XX, The National, Vampire Weekend, LCD Soundsystem, St Vincent and so much more. Half of these are already out and I’ve been so overwhelmed by content that I have yet to give them the ear-time they deserve. There are podcasts to listen to, things to watch and read. I’ve got hobbies and responsibilities. Being an adult takes up a lot of spare time.

However, none of that mattered the other night when Fleet Foxes took the stage at Massey Hall. I got into these guys a week after their 2008 performance at the Bruce Mason theatre. The next time they came to town, I was overseas. I think there was some music festival I meant to go to, but that never worked out. We’ve been passing like ships in the night (they felt my profound absence from their tours, I’m sure). Finally the universe aligned and came together under the roof of my favourite Toronto venue. One of the rare venues where the sound techs are so good I don’t need to wear earplugs. The lighting techs make the most grand displays. The acoustics are phenomenal and the whole building is gorgeous. If an artist I love has a show there it’s pretty hard to pass up that chance.

It took about ten minutes for the band to engage the audience. In my head I’d always had this picture of Fleet Foxes as uptight, pretentious artwank douches. I couldn’t have been more off-base. They were amicable and loquacious, taking time to banter with the crowd. A crowd that was strangely aggressive heckle-wise. Once again, I expected that the band would shut that the fuck down, but instead lead singer Robin Pecknold accommodated it. He’d listen and respond. They’d goof around playing snippets of covers (“Exit Music for a Film”, “Here Comes the Sun”) or in general joking around with audience members. That unfortunately encouraged a deluge of dickheads from the crowd to call out, but didn’t tarnish an amazing gig.

It’s something truly special when a band you’ve been waiting for delivers in stunning fashion. Everything sounded phenomenal and the choice of visuals brought it all to the fore. The harmonies were rich and bold. Their track selection was astounding. I can’t think of any songs I craved that they missed. The old classics scratched the itch I’d built up for years. The new material added a interesting dynamic. It played on a stronger sense of juxtaposition, something that was viscerally felt live. I can’t imagine them having performed a better gig, which is the most sensational feeling when it’s something I’ve been longing for. At times it’s easy to forget how much live music resonates deeply within you.

Like every good gig, it’s making me question why I don’t go out to concerts more often. It’s making me wonder how long I’ll have to wait until the next big one (September 18th, Father John Misty). Mostly though, it’s filling my mind with memories and my heart with goodwill.

In short, it’s about time I added more names to that bucket list.

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