Last Night: Fleet Foxes and Cave Singers at Palladium Ballroom

Fleet Foxes, Cave Singers
Palladium Ballroom
May 11, 2011

Better Than: Seeing a bad band in a good venue.

Fleet-Foxes-27.jpg
Andrew Shepherd
Fleet Foxes' Robin Pecknold. For more shots from last night's concert, check the slideshow
Based on the release of the Fleet Foxes' brilliant, self-titled 2008 debut -- along with their new record Helplessness Blues, which was released last week -- it wouldn't be hard for one to predict that the band's sold-out performance at Palladium Ballroom this week would be among the best-received concerts in Dallas in 2011.

Even taking into account that it's only May, you'd have to figure that it'd at least be a shoe-in for top five concerts of the year consideration.

Unfortunately for the fans of the Seattle folk heroes, the venue and band suffered from a serious mismatch.

A venue like Palladium Ballroom is made for explosive performances, complete with visuals that are sure to reach even the folks in the back of the room. But Fleet Foxes showed up with little more than their beards, some acoustic guitars and a few mandolins, adamantly demanding that the music stand on its own.

And it would have, had the band played in a more fitting venue like, say, The Bass Performance Hall, or The Meyerson Symphony Center -- somewhere where the audience could hear the dusty ring of Josh Tillman's vintage drumset or the subtle tones of Skyler Skjelse's trebled-out lead guitar lines.

Instead, the band was booked at a big rock venue where the drum sounds were dull thuds and the guitar was lost in the ether. Perhaps the chasm between the band and the audience members not located within 15 feet of the stage could have been bridged with some sort of backdrop, video or maybe a more varied use of the stage lights, which seemed to be set simply to "on" for the entire show. The only thing the audience got was the band -- six guys onstage, accompanied only by their instruments. In a more intimate venue, it would have worked; Fleet Foxes played brilliantly, working their way through a near-perfect set, hitting every note with ease, showcasing impeccable four-part harmonies, and, at moments, transcended the ill-fitting venue.

But, like the band's name, those moments were fleeting. They were likely chased off by lead singer Robin Pecknold's discomfort being in the spotlight.

"How's it going?" he dryly asked the audience during almost every one of the band's extended between-song pauses, which came frequently.

At one point he even pointed at an audience member and joked, "You look bored." He was right. In their defense, though, the band took a lot of time to tune their instruments. See, the focus here was on perfection, not so much on performance.

The set started with a handful of songs from Helplessness Blues. "Grown Oceans," the record's second single, came second on the setlist. The band played through it, and the other songs from the new album, with a fresh energy.

The audience seemed to be divided, though. Some sang along with the new songs, while others clearly came to hear songs from the band's debut, which they didn't touch on until about seven songs in when they played "Your Protector." A slowed-down version of "Tiger Mountain Peasant Song" was nearly drowned out by chatter, but "White Winter Hymnal" and "Ragged Wood" sent a small spark through the audience. "Montezuma," which Pecknold played mostly by himself, was a show-stopper, proving to be more powerful than most of the songs that featured the entire band. The band ended the regular set with a soaring version of "Blue Ridge Mountains," and returned for a rousing encore of "Oliver James" and the incredible "Helplessness Blues."

In the end, a lesson was learned: When trying to accommodate this many people with such intimate, delicate music, venue selection is crucial. And, on this night, what could've been a beautiful show in a huge rock hall instead made Fleet Foxes' incredible set seem distant. And even a little boring at times, too.

Critic's Notebook
Personal Bias: I am a huge Fleet Foxes fan. I came into this show expecting to be moved by the band's performance, but instead I found myself straining to make out the guitar parts clearly.

Random Note: I wonder how many of those neon test tube shots were sold at the show last night. Also: Do folksy hipster types do jello shots? Discuss.

By The Way: I got to the venue in time to see Cave Singers play a few songs. People nodded along to their Delta blues songs, but it was clear everyone was just biding their time before the main event.

Location Info

Map

Palladium Ballroom - CLOSED

1135 S. Lamar Road, Dallas, TX

Category: Music

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11 comments
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JB
JB

Man, I'm disheartened to hear about the 'chatter' being louder than 'Tiger Mountain Peasant Song'. When the same thing happened at a Nickel Creek gig when they were playing a softer song, Chris Thile stops and says "Yeah, I would pay $20 bucks to go talk somewhere." It's so true, and I especially thought with a band as musically captivating as FF that people would be awestruck. There will always be 'those people' at a show, you know, the folks who don't give a crap about FF but want to hear "White Winter Hymnal" so they'll go along, or the guy shouting, "Crrrreeep!" at a Radiohead show, or my personal favorite, people refilling their drinks/going to the bathroom during brilliant musical solos or jam sections. 

I do agree that a standing-room only show is not the place for Fleet Foxes. The Meyerson or Majestic would have been perfect. Almost too perfect. I'm not sure the universe could handle perfect music in a perfect venue like that without destroying the space time continuum. 

ShowNoMarcy
ShowNoMarcy

I pretty much agree on all counts. I showed up early and I was maybe three "rows" back... the only problem is that there were four guys over 6 feet standing in front of me. It's times like these that I wish I weren't 5 feet tall. I guess thats one of the reasons why I like the Granada instead of Palladium. I can see and still be really close. I enjoyed the Cave Singers quite a bit and even though the venue might not have been the best and I couldn't see, I had a blast. 

Moonie
Moonie

that was my 5th time to see Fleet Foxes. Robin has always been awkward on stage and even in many interviews displays some self-consciousness.

i thought it was a good show, in spite of the venue.

i absolutely hate, hate, hate the Palladium. the place just sucks for pretty much any show. the bar lines are always 15-30 min long, the surcharges, the parking situation, the sound. it's a piss-poor venue.

you cant fit that many people into a venue and have it be all FLAT and then have sightlines obstructed by countless support beams, flourescent jello shots (that J Tillman mocked) and now all these fucking big screen tv's.

id gladly take Verizon Theatre over Palladium for a FF show, at least it's comfortable and the sound is great.

Dallas Can't Academy
Dallas Can't Academy

- Sound was not great, but I would rather be at the Palladium than Verizon Wireless Theater and the Disney antics that go on there. - I wondered the same thing about the test tube shots. Does that fit the demographic.- Robin Pecknhold appears to be really uncomfortable as a frontman, but is too great a musician not to be.  He came off as kind of a jerk in a recent interview as well.  I could care less as long as he makes the good music.- As usual, too many people talking during a show. 

Sld
Sld

Couldn't agree more! The sound there is terrible. FF deserve a better venue to play in as far as sound. Anyone experience the blonde merchandise worker? She wouldn't help anyone that was paying with a credit card, because the line was too long. Didn't make any sense.

Gentle_Giant
Gentle_Giant

Great review, couldn't agree more. I still enjoyed the show, but you know what I enjoy more? Being tall. I can see the concert from the back of the room, and normally that’s where I remain. I could lord over you, jostle my way to the front and obstruct your view, but I don't. I want to, but I don't. Herein, ladies and gentlemen, lies the Tall Man's Conundrum.You may not have ever experienced this, but you have certainly played a hand in it. Rando tall guy posts up in front of you (just trying to have a good time, mind you), obvious first reaction is “Well f this guy”. You probably won’t do anything except make light of it, but inside you the rage is swelling. Now step into the tall guy’s shoes. There is a heavy internal debate going on as to whether he should make the move, obstruct some views, and obtain a better spot in the crowd. He doesn’t want to ruin your view of the show, but genetics have forced his hand. First order of business is scouting people. We won’t stand in front of those under 5’5”. Your disadvantage in these situations is understood and we’re not here to complicate things further. Booze plays a heavy factor as well, as the decision to pounce is not easily made sober. Tall guy makes his approach, stone-cold face, and plants his feet knowing full well he will have to enjoy the f*%# out of this show, visibly, in order to ensure that the hipster he just stood in front of will not be as thoroughly offended.Bottom line is that tall people are people too. We enjoy music, laughter, sunshine. Why can’t we enjoy concerts like the rest of you? If you can’t feel relaxed at a Fleet Foxes concert on a rainy day at a venue where literally everyone is stoned, then the terrorists have truly won. Heightism is rampant in this country, and change begins with you. Give a tall person a hug today. Let them know you care.

chris
chris

Those test tube shots looked ridiculous

Drew
Drew

Agree with the review 100%. Great performance by Fleet Foxes, just in the wrong venue. And yes, what was up with the giants everywhere. The guy in front of me said he was 6'6" and there were two guys to the left of him that were taller than that.

Trang Nguyen
Trang Nguyen

Yes !!! I'm so small compared to the what seemed like 9 feet tall fans that all hung out with each other, what the heck.

I'm a huge Fleet Foxes fan and thought they delivered a pretty nice performance (or at least, I had a nice time singing along to their S/T album, linkin' some nostalgic times to those tunes, ya know). Thought Palladium was a bit strange for the setting as well and was going to suggest The Loft (though that'd PROBABLY sell out in seconds) or set it similar to Sufjan's show at SMU's Auditorium.

Robin was so awkward...obviously did not have much suave with the audience. But I liked him enough to not care anyway.

It was just nice to finally be able to see them in the end. As a fan, I didn't care as much because I didn't really know what to expect. Wishing it was a little more intimate though, and probably at a different place. Hopefully they'll learn better next time.

Volta
Volta

One thing I noticed for sure is that they have a lot of tall fans.

But yes, they should of played elsewhere that is a bit smaller.

Lance_Lester
Lance_Lester

I was wondering how FF playing there was going to pan out. I saw them play The Loft a few years ago and it was obviously much better for sound.

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