Music News

Bon Iver and Fleet Foxes Bring an Indie Super-Show to Phoenix

In your face, every other city!

It's no secret that music-loving Phoenicians sometimes get the shaft by bands that skip the Valley to play in Tucson, our neighbor to the south. (It always feels like salt in the wound, no?) But no other city can boast this one: Bon Iver and Fleet Foxes, under the same roof.

An announcement that either act is playing Comerica Theatre is cause for applause. But both of them? On the same bill? That's cause for a full-on bearded-hipster joygasm.

"I would be stoked if I lived in Phoenix," Fleet Foxes songwriter Robin Peckhold tweeted in June. And we certainly are. Hands down, Bon Iver and the Fleet Foxes are two of the biggest acts in indie rock right now. What more could you ask for?

Though each group boasts just two albums to its name, they both represent the forefront of American indie-folk.

By now, most fans are familiar with the story regarding Bon Iver's (the nom de plume of Justin Vernon) 2007 debut album, For Emma, Forever Ago. It's a tale that has been repeated over and over again by every music writer anxious to wade into the mythology of the band. In 2005, following the breakup of Vernon's previous band, DeYarmond Edison, a bad split with his girlfriend, and a bout of mono, Vernon holed himself up in his dad's cabin in Wisconsin for four months, where he wrote and recorded what would become For Emma.

Despite the album's homespun nature, it thrust Vernon into the spotlight. That awkward-looking guy in white up on stage with Kanye? Yeah, that was him, and Bon Iver's self-titled follow-up to For Emma showcased what Vernon's brush with the big time taught him. Tracks like "Perth" percolate with electronic flourishes, and the album's closer, "Beth/Rest," soft-rocks like Adult Contemporary.

Though the circumstances surrounding the Fleet Foxes' own 2008 self-titled debut aren't quite as mythical as Vernon's, the results are no less as powerful. Whereas Bon Iver's debut was a quiet and hushed brand of indie folk, the Fleet Foxes brought an entirely different brand of "freak folk" to the table. The Seattle band's lush harmonies and rich instrumentation quickly earned them the ears of NPR fans and Pitchfork readers alike.

The band's follow-up album, Helplessness Blues, sees more of the same but sounds more expansive in every way. "Grown Ocean" swells and charges forward, "The Cascades" weaves intertwining British folk figures, and "The Shrine/An Argument" moves from impassioned shouting to a free-jazz freakout.

It seems likely that as the end of the year draws closer, there will be an inevitable debate over which group, Bon Iver or Fleet Foxes, produced the album of the year. The records represent two sides of the same coin, and both will have passionate defenders and supporters.

But for indie fans in Phoenix, there will be little argument about the show of the year.

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Michael Escoto