As Nashville's Mother Church filled with beings searching for contentment in the mountainous melodies of a band of Seattle-based old souls, The Spin was seated with eyes wide, observing all there was to behold among the uneasy butts in ancient wooden pews. Something profound would take place this evening. And after all, what more sorcerous space to incubate such potential than the most revered cathedral in our city?
Promptly on the hour, The Cave Singers took the stage to reluctant applause, primarily from people more interested in seeing the band take their exit as soon as possible. It's no secret that Nashville audiences are among the hardest to please, and a rough start with an unsure tune forced our eyebrows into a glower. Within two minutes, however, the collective anxiety had left with haste. Tambourines, harmonicas, melodicas and all sorts of percussion punctuated the precise phrases — folk tunes as rays of warm hope. The Spin wasn't really there for that, though. Those in attendance — all a part of an outrageously urban-outfitted sea — were seeking the sorts of songs that expose the endless forest of human drama, not sugar-coat it.
The lights dimmed, and a preemptive ovation exploded in the auditorium before dying again in a reverence fit for the pope (OK, we're being hyperbolic). Lead singer Robin Pecknold and his tribe of talented companions — looking surprisingly clean despite their reputations — faced the crowd with exposed, childlike expressions on tour-worn faces. Tiny guitar notes started to form a loose melody in the still air, and as the song structure came into view, the crowd screamed their approval once more. The first six songs would be from the Foxes' newest effort, Helplessness Blues, released only a week prior, and were followed by tunes from a much earlier release, the Sun Giant EP. The ensemble kept their pace through eerie psalms from their first self-titled full-length: "Your Protector" and "Tiger Mountain Peasant Song." Drummer and co-arranger Joshua Tillman provided the pitch-perfect echoes alongside bassist Christian Wargo and keyboardist Casey Wescott. Newest member and multi-instrumentalist Morgan Henderson, formerly of The Blood Brothers, contributed his many talents, from flute to upright bass, while Skyler Skjelset's mandolin and guitar pickings bestowed the Foxes' trademark "baroque-pop" sound. (Skjelset even went so far as to play his guitar with a bow.)
The imaginative arrangements were not lost on the crowd, and before Fleet Foxes reached the end of their set, the audience had interrupted with enthusiastic applause twice more. By the third eruption, Pecknold laughingly exclaimed, "Are you fucking serious?!", and proclaimed it to be the best night of his life before his nonplussed bandmate demanded that the house lights be raised so he could capture the moment with his camera phone. Such a humble reaction from an act currently on a sold-out tour sent the devotees into hysterics again. Foxmania!
Ending the spectral two-hour spectacle with "Blue Ridge Mountain" wasn't nearly satisfying enough, and the admiring listeners cheered until an encore was granted. Pecknold took the stage alone with his acoustic and a spotlight, rendering the room speechless as he gently vocalized "Oliver James" before the rest of the band joined him in a rendition of "Helplessness Blues," sending the dopamined crowd into the dark with lighter hearts. The Spin then found the nearest exit, attempting to beat the multitude outside, and turned into an alley to find ourselves face to face with the handsome fellows that had just serenaded us so tenderly. Having absolutely nothing prepared to say, we only introduced ourselves and congratulated them on their success, before we were overwhelmed by fans looking for signatures. We wandered away, singing their songs and dodging the rain.