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Sunday, 09 June 2013 16:33

Concert review: Foals (with Palace and Brother Nature at the Halo Bar) unfurls wide-open rock at the Pageant, Friday, June 7

Concert review: Foals (with Palace and Brother Nature at the Halo Bar) unfurls wide-open rock at the Pageant, Friday, June 7
Written by Blair Stiles

This review must begin with a note spelling out to readers that I am at fault for the confusion over Surfer Blood's start time. When I strolled in, I thought Surfer Blood was at the top of its set. In reality, a top-five band of mine had begun to enter its last song ("Drinking Problem") directly into the ears of every rabid fan in the Pageant's pit.

I was near the restrooms feeling my heart dry up in a similar fashion to when I read Girls had split. Unlike Girls, which is a wound that salts itself every time I cue up "Broken Dreams Club," it took 20 minutes of gratuitous self-loathing and one Pabst Blue Ribbon tall boy to moisturize my dehydrated heart strings.

Some losses are harder than others. I will see Surfer Blood again, and I will not flub up the start time. Girls lives on through Christopher Owen's solo venture, but its not Girls. Had I mourned my loss to the extent that I still hurt for Girls I would have missed Foals embody classic-rock badassery in the presence of a near sold-out crowd and swing one steel-toe boot into the left-buttock of metal itself and say, "Oh, you think you're the only ones who can head bang, huh?"

Or, had it come from lead singer/guitarist/pocket elf Yannis Philippakis it would have sounded like, "Uoh, yewh hank yoewhr thuh ewnly uhns ooh cuhn ehd bunhg, euh?" Philippakis' diminutive stature and thick Oxford accent made him an arresting focal point. Inside an aquarium of sound built by the band's heavy effects presence, and surrounded by his bandmates, he was a goldfish amongst surface-nosing stalks of kelp. Foals' frontman was the sole eye-catching element in a vast pool of throbbing strobe lights and new wave's lingering essence. When he swam off the edge into the crowd during "Inhaler" -- an aural ode to Pink Floyd's "Another Brick in the Wall" -- he disappeared. Underwater inside the pit, he later resurfaced at the perimeter of the Pageant's seating. He strode back to the stage as the air around him dipped to the core temperature of a popsicle in December. He looked like an anti-hero -- the epitome of indifference.

The Pageant's acoustics and the band's muscular sound married in holy, sonic matrimony. The heavier compositions of 2013's "Holy Fire" lose the safety net of a post-production cleanse when generated live. The Flood and Alan Moulder-produced record is aggressive with chunks of AC/DC-like blues rock. Live, the songs come across as predecessors to heavy metal. The guitar effects on Philippakis' and Jimmy Smith's axes were delayed and churned out a dirty, funk-ified tones not as omnipotent on record. The sound as a whole was much, much heavier. Gone were the Foals of yesterday who utilized a Mu-Tron to create a magical aural experience. The Foals on Friday night tackled their audience to the ground and put them in a head lock. Philippakis' vocals on "Providence" were war cries. Philippakis' voice stampeded from his maw like a spooked wild beast.

"Two Steps, Twice," off 2008's "Antidotes" sounded like a different song at the Pageant. The band's live rendition still caught in my cranium due to Jack Bevan's omnipotent reggaeton beat. Foals appear to construct their songs off a beat produced by Bevan; at the Pageant, Bevan did not move around his kit, he mostly kept a tempo -- a human metronome. The band came in around him, adding their parts into a collection of intense rhythmic and effects choices which define Foals genre-bending sound. When these aspects were generated live, they came together with a force triumphant enough that clouds of sweat would disperse into the atmosphere whenever Philippakis banged his curls up and down.

Afterwards, St. Louis' Palace played the Halo Bar to a crowd of 30. On-stage Palace constructed their songs as Foals seemed to: time-keeping beat courtesy of drummer Danny Hill with cyclical synth lines and effected guitar and vocal riffs. With bassist Josh Eaker and trumpeter/multi-instrumentalist Phill Grooms in tow, the 10x10 stage was not big enough for Palace. Lead guitarist/singer Matt Kavanaugh ended the set on the floor and Eaker hopped on an amp and like a groovy jellyfish remained there to sway. Mid-set, Eaker, Grooms, Hill and singer Crystal Owens left the stage to make way for Ryan Myers and Nick Blackburn of Dots Not Feathers and bassist Steve Factor. Kavanaugh remained onstage and introduced the quartet as "Brother Nature." The side project of Kavanaugh and Myers blended funky garage-rock bass lines with blink-and-you-will-miss-it rhythm guitar patches from Myers. Despite this being the first time Factor and Blackburn have played with Kavanaugh and Myers, let alone the band's first time performing together, it came across like a fastidious habit.

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