Foals | Music Hall of Williamsburg | 10.02.2010


When did Foals become so popular? Music Hall of Williamsburg was as packed as I've ever seen it for the second of the UK band's two NYC area shows this weeknend. And when did they get such a douchey, bro-heavy fanbase? I saw two almost-fights within the first three songs. Then there was the near-constant crowd surfing, even on the slow songs. Even between songs. Jeez.

This is the kind of stuff that can sour a show for and old crank like me. If Foals hadn't been so fantastic, I think I might've left. But there's no denying the Oxford quintet have come a long way in the last three years. Foals' debut, Antidotes, was nervy and twitchy and mathy and shouty…and kind of sterile. Live, that nervous energy came through even more. Their first NYC show — CMJ 2007 — the band mostly faced each other, ignoring the audience, except when singer Yannis Philippakis suddenly lept offstage almost knocking my friend over. Then at Bowery Ballroom in early 2008, the band had already started to come out of their shell, though Philiappakis was so nervous he threw up on stage.

Two years later, the band have released Total Life Forever which is a major step forward for the band and one of 2010's best records. Still filled with complex interplay between the band, Foals have loosened up considerably, making room for heart and soul. Bigger, better, even more danceable. The first single, "Spanish Sahara," was featured prominently in the Entourage Season 7 trailer which ran for like two months on HBO, which shoulda tipped me off, but it didn't seem like anyone I knew was into the record.

Well, people are indeed into Foals, it's just not the crowd I was expecting. Foals sold out Bowery and MHoW and, given what I saw last night, they'll be playing Terminal 5 the next time they hit NYC. The band are certainly ready for bigger venues. Philippakis now faces the audience and makes jokes with the crowd. The band are still shit hot and tight as the Queen's posterior. The songs from TLF sound fantastic, and the Antidotes material (and early singles) sounded better. I woulda liked a few more from the new album (no "This Orient" or "Black Gold"), but Foals have become a live force.

Yannis still likes leaping off stage, by the way. During "Electric Bloom," after climbing a set of speakers and nearly falling off, Philippakis took a FLYING leap into the audience. The whole roam let out a giant "WHOA!" as he flew what seemed to me a good 15 feet out. The crowd caught him. The dude is a little crazy. 

I think the crowd kind of took this to be an invitation to be just as crazy as him. The final song of the night, "Two Steps, Twice," a couple girls managed to get on stage and started dancing. This led to a full-on stage invasion with something like 20 mostly blonde girls dancing plus a few bros who grabbed the mike and sang along. Bonkers. To the band's credit, they let it happen. No calling the bouncers, let the kids have their fun. Though Foals didn't really seem into it.

MP3: Foals – Total Life Forever (Buy it from Sub Pop)

SETLIST: Blue Blood | Olympic Airways | Total Life Forever | Cassius | Miami | Balloons | Afterglow | Alabaster | Spanish Sahara | Red Socks Pugie | Electric Bloom || The French Open | Two Steps Twice


Not to sound like an elitist prick but…I wonder what Foals think of their new audience. I'm sure they enjoy being able to make more money, but it's gotta be a bit weird. Philappakis and the rest of the band are funny, smart nice guys. They are so not bros. We're talking a band that two years ago played Silent Barn and probably preferred it to Bowery Ballroom. Total Life Forever is clearly them stepping up to the plate, but they didn't seem like that different of a band at MHoW. No fancy clothes, no attitude. Music this good appeals to everyone, I guess. And you can't pick your fans. Being a Saturday night probably made it worse, and I am clearly an snobby curmudgeon, but the crowd really was pretty ugh.


  1. Come on, I was at the show and while I can't argue with your bro bashing (although let's be honest, those girls who took over the stage during Two Steps, Twice were waaaay more annoying), let's not start hating on the fact that the crowd actually MOVED on Saturday night. We all know NYC crowds are notoriously lame when it comes to dancing, and more than once I've had otherwise kick-ass shows ruined by the fact that despite the band's best efforts, the crowd just couldn't give them the energy they were looking for. Saturday night was different, and as a result, some of the most fun I've had at a show. Of course there were some bros there who just wanted to act crazy and whatever music enabled that was secondary. But for me, it felt great to actually be able to move around without getting dirty looks from people around me. Sure, NY has an unrivaled music scene and any band you want to see will inevitably stop through here, but I can't help but think the too-cool attitude that so many NYers have actually ends up making concerts here less enjoyable than they would be in other cities. And it's not like Foals' music doesn't lend itself to some serious moving, shit. By all accounts these guys ROCK out at all their shows, to the point where I get the impression Saturday night might have actually been a bit tame for them. I read a short piece last week by someone who was going to their fourth Foals show in NYC this weekend (at Bowery), and they actually mentioned that in the past they couldn't help but feel like Foals were waiting for the crowd to pick it up more, and seemed a bit disappointed with the energy they got. You're obviously self-aware of your slightly snobby curmudgeon ways, so I'm not here to rip you, just to point out in a very long-winded way that yes excessive bro-ness sucks, but so does excessive hipster-too-cool-for-that-ness, especially at rock concerts.

  2. Mark,
    I agree with you for the most part. I'm all for dancing. Being an idiot is a different story. I was just stuck next to some especially bro-y bros, saw two fights. Like I said, that kind of stuff sours the evening a bit. But Foals were great. And you're right about this being business as usual for Foals, given the reports from the Bowery show.

  3. Yea, I'm kind of shocked at Foals relative popularity as well…
    I originally planned on seeing them at Bowery, but that show sold out months in advance..
    There's no crossover hit, no pitchfork hype, no massively popular band endorsing them in the press..
    Might actually be old-fashioned word-of-mouth that's helping them.. I know I've been recommeding the new album to anyone with any interest in their sort of music…
    They skipped most of my favorite cuts off the new album (black gold, what remains, 2 trees, this orient) but I honestly didnt mind… The Antidotes songs sounded great live and were the obvious set highlights for me.. And I'm not a huge fan of that album either.. Those songs all had an amazing energy
    great set, great band, great new album… really curious what direction they go in with the next one

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