Sam France looks a lot like Jim Morrison up there onstage at Hudson River Park, long-haired and lanky, suspended in a serious of ungainly gestures resembling either a mystic conjuring spirits, Touchdown Jesus, or a little kid seeing how high he can jump. The tambourine player is going bat-shit crazy, running in every direction. Between the seesawing Village Green Preservation Society grooves and periods of guitar-driven Sgt. Pepper turbulence swirling around him, the show simultaneously feels like a tent revival and a revival of Hair. Save for a few moments of awkward stage banter (more on that later), it’s quite enjoyable.
When I first heard Foxygen’s We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic early this year, I had no idea there would be SXSW meltdowns, canceled tours, accounts of horribly inept live performances, and an airing of intraband hate on Tumblr in the months to follow. I just liked the songs. (I wasn’t alone.) For a band whose music is so derivative of the past, they certainly are rife with problems specific to 2013.
There may have been some sarcastically chirpy comments early in the set—Thank you for coming, welcome to the show, thumbs-ups!—but for the most part, things seemed to be going on course: a commendable effort given that hours before, a band publicist was dispelling rumors of their breakup. Jonathan Rado, France’s songwriting partner and supposed Enemy #1, sat demurely behind an organ, fulfilling his role as multi-instrumentalist, backup singer, paisley-shirt wearer. But then, about three-fourths through, out of nowhere, he makes stilted comments about France leaving his jacket on his keyboard (he doesn’t seem thrilled by it). It’s followed by a bout of non sequitur banter between the two—Porta Potties and the nearby Sea, Air and Space Museum are mentioned—and eventually ends with Rado burying his face in his hands, muttering into the mic, “Someone just shoot me in the fucking face.” People laugh, because, what else are they supposed to do?