Weekly series about the best local bands and venues by music critic Eric Kiska.
It’s been awhile since the Crofoot Ballroom in Pontiac has seen something similar to the psychedelic indie-rock band Foxygen. The southern Californian band appeased their cult fan base Wednesday night with a rocking and rolling hour long set that showed they’re one of the most intriguing bands today.
Foxygen is on tour after releasing their new album, “… And Star Power.” It’s a double-sided record that is packed with experimental sounds. Although this isn’t their “White Album,” it’s a 24-track testament to a band that sounds as if they’re from another time.
Guitarist and organist Jonathan Rado seemed pleasantly in paradise performing his wonderfully orchestrated tunes, while lead singer Sam France surely got the crowd into the music.
Manic vocalist France sashayed on stage in tight leather pants and makeup, acting like the modern version of an intoxicated 1970’s Mick Jagger. His dance moves drew comparisons to the sprightly frontman. He’d often scream or even moan into the microphone. His backup singers would carry the notes that were coming out of his quivering mouth while they jived with him.
Despite his screams, France had an absorbing energy. After trying to surf on the speakers, kicking down the microphone stand several times, falling into the crowd, and jumping off stage then running a circle around the audience, the crowd accepted him for who he was: an energetic songwriter who would tumble, but rise again. Without France’s stage presence and his whimsically engaging voice, Foxygen wouldn’t have achieved the cult following that they have today.
Multi-instrumentalist Rado seemed to be of a different breed, though. He is the real noggin behind Foxygen. Rado is a a curly-haired musical genius who executes his organs and guitars with an admirable tranquility. While France gets the hype going, Rado is the backbone of an old-style musical intelligence that is unparalleled these days. “…And Star Power” is long and drawn out, but it proves that Rado has an ear for alluring melodies.
The Crofoot Ballroom was an intelligent venue for Foxygen, intimate, but not cramped. It was a place where the lights didn’t seem over-produced, but were just enough to capture the classic rock ambience of the evening. The show proved that The Crofoot is aptly named a “ballroom” instead of a “bar.”
The three albums Foxygen have released are daring explorations into a unique genre. It’s readily evident their sophomore album, “21st Century Ambassadors of Peace and Magic,” trumps their other two endeavors. Their song choices at The Crofoot showed this as they didn’t delve deep into, “…And Star Power.” They played a safe and accessible set for this metro-Detroit crowd. Songs such as “No Destruction” and “On Blue Mountain” were fan favorites.
The Crofoot has surprisingly been around since the 1800’s, but has been remodeled and rebuilt several times. Named after Michael E. Crofoot, an entreprenuer, lawyer, and Oakland Country Probate judge from 1849-1856, The Crofoot Ballroom is an old relic in the heart of downtown Pontiac with tons of history. Foxygen joined the long list of talented bands who’ve performed here.
Other stories in this series:
- Cadieux Cafe, a former speakeasy, serves up great live shows, Belgian beers
- Punk rock is not dead in Detroit. Trumbullplex, others keep genre alive
- Jack White’s Homecoming at Fox Theatre Was Final Piece of Puzzle
- ‘Whatever’ Festival transforms Detroit house into music festival
- Local bands impress at Dally in the Alley in Cass Corridor
- Blue Mountain Belle brings unique sound to PJs Lager House
- Hamtramck’s premier music venue, Smalls, pays homage to 90s’s alternative scene
Eric Kiska graduated from Northern Michigan with a BS in English and writing and minor in art and design. He’s also a former video editor at Detroit Public TV.