Review: Foxygen at 9:30 Club

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In the past four years I’ve seen Foxygen three times in three different cities. The first time I saw Foxygen perform was back in 2013. It was a hot summer night at First Avenue in Minneapolis and the band was fresh off the release of their sophomore album, “We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic.” The album birthed tracks like “Shuggie” and “San Francisco,” which garnered the band a great deal of buzz and put Foxygen on the map as a band to watch. At the time, Sam France and Jonathan Rado were aided by three other touring members including Shaun Fleming (Diane Coffee) who helped bring their sound to life on stage. As the band launched into their first song that summer night, the energy emanating from stage was palpable. Sam France performed unlike anything I’d seen before, but only for about two minutes -as he gyrated across the stage into oblivion, he actually fell off the stage. The band played on, not realizing that France had actually broken his leg during the fall. The show abruptly ended, the rest of the tour was cancelled. Some attendees that night thought it would be the last anyone would ever see of Foxygen, they were wrong.

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In 2014, Foxygen returned with “...And Starpower” a sprawling 24-track album that had both moments of clarity and moments of confusion. I caught the band on their “Starpower Farewell Tour” at the Metro in Chicago in April of 2015. Again, Sam France fearlessly danced around the stage with the same energy I’d witnessed once before, but this time kept all of his bones in tact. The performance included the addition of three female vocalists who also performed choreographed dances. Cryptic tweets and the phrase “farewell tour” had led people to believe that this really was the last they’d see of Foxygen and just like before, they were wrong.   

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In November 2016, Foxygen resurfaced with the single, “America” and in January released their fourth record, “Hang.” The album has a track listing of 8 songs and is what the duo have dubbed their “first proper studio record." The album was recorded with a 40-plus-piece symphony orchestra and has a grandiose feeling throughout. With this grand new sound, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from Foxygen on this tour.

I was wary of how such an extravagant sound would translate live. But any doubts I had were pushed aside as soon as the band launched into the title track from their sophomore album, "We Are The 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic" to begin their set. With the addition of a horns section and female vocalist, Sam France proved he is still the same bold and captivating performer he's always been. He moved swiftly and without fear Wednesday night and the only thing that fell off the stage this time around was the microphone. 

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After playing some of the "hits" so to speak, Foxygen played "Hang" in its entirety, in order of the album's track list. France's vocals shined on "Rise Up" and the Billy Joel-esque "Avalon" sounded massive live. With the horns section and Sam France's inescapable stage presence, Foxygen delivered a delightfully energetic set that had everyone at the 9:30 Club completely enthralled from start to finish.

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All photos by Cina Nguyen for Capitol Sound DC.

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