A Midsummer’s Night with the Fleet Foxes
I have a fond reverie of one midsummer’s night not too long ago. It was on of one of my finest-yet-infrequent camping trips. It spent in the company of the Fleet Foxes on a brief sojourn during the recording of their latest album. The memory is somewhat cloudy, but then clears off into bright sunshine, much like the Pacific Northwest milieu from which the band originates.
There were seven of us as I recall: Robin, Skyler, Casey, Josh, Christian, Morgan and myself. It seemed we spent a lot of time listening to Fairport Convention and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young albums on a single passed-around iPod. Played some UNO. Roasted strips of salmon over the campfire.
Such good sports, too. Upon not much prodding, they took to their instruments and played a few cuts from their soon-to-bow sophomore effort. How they managed to squirrel away and then, from a few burlap sacks, suddenly produce Tibetan singing bowls, mandolins, a water harp, a hammer dulcimer, a plethora of woodwinds and a harmonium, I will never know. Was this some newfangled sorcery? Some magic by way of Bucknard’s Everfull Pouch? I will forever marvel over it, but thrilled I was to the foggy indie rock breakdown of “Sim Sala Bim” and indulged in some drum circle action with “The Plains/Bitter Dancer.”
“What is this fair record going to be called?” I shouted.
Quaint, I thought myself, using an anachronistic term for a music format that had seen its time come and go and then come again. But they did not blink, and Robin paused and proceeded to withdraw a freshly pressed, limited edition, vinyl copy of said “record” from his bepatched knapsack.
“Helplessness Blues,” he said. “It’s in your stores right now.”
He did not say it peevishly as I imagined he might (and would surely be well within his rights) but was quite nonplussed, as though the revelation of this recording, out in the middle of the wilderness, was the most natural occurrence in the world. He handed it to me, and I ran a hand lovingly across its glossy cover. Artwork of a different era and yet thoroughly modern. Illustrations that seemed to encompass the cosmos, Amelia Earhart, nature, the earth, hell, heaven and all like the sweeping scope of their propulsive epic, “Grown Ocean.” This Holy Grail of timeless indie folk rock and evocative poetry was to be coveted.
The strains of “Lorelai” played throughout the fair woods, and I longed to join in on the chorus although I did not know the words yet. This was not “old news” but new. One more song perhaps? Yes, “Someone You’d Admire.” As he sang, I became that “huddled moonlit exile, on the shore/warming his hands a thousand years ago.” Did I tarry awhile longer with these strangely beautiful lyrics, these magnanimous, unhurried musicians? If only. But alas … I was stirred from my reverie …
... and then it was time to go home.