1 – FINDING THE ECHO
Dream of the impossible, and you’ll get something even better. For the Fleet Foxes, we wanted a huge, empty place–an impressive one, if possible. We wanted an echo, we wanted a lot of space, we wanted something intangible. At the Grand Palais, on the central walkways running along the neve where Richard Serra’s monumental pillars were installed, was a door sealed with an iron bar. Behind that door was an unused university and an infinity of corridors, abandoned as if at short notice after a sudden catastrophe. A couple of chairs, smashed doors, pigeon excrement on the worn carpets and pigeons flying above our heads, all under ridiculously high ceilings. Garrincha got us into that ghastly place in the Grand Palais thanks to Sebastien and Muriel, two of his friends. It was only accessible through an outstanding rococo staircase. We walked with the band until we found a rotunda. We were exhausted.
2 – EXHAUSTION AND TENSION
It was the first day of June. The night before, we had thrown our second Take Away Party. The Fleet Foxes arrived from Great Britain with their van, played “White Winter Hymnal” in the pit, gave a great show, and left right after. We went to bed at 3am after a crazy night. The following day was all about laziness, spent in a place too big for us, with a band who seemed at once exhausted, excited, and intimidated.
It took some time to settle in, as if the rotunda scared us all. During idle times, Robin would stand looking up, staring, as if praying. Moon was rushing about, and the band’s members tried to set up, following his directions. Tension was tangible, and it took a couple of bad takes before “Blue Ridge Mountain” started well. Music finally took over.
3 – AND SO THE MUSIC STARTS
When the voices rang out, I felt happy– they couldn’t have possibly sounded better than they did in this ancient echo. It was a great start. But the real shock came right after the line “I love you, I love you, Oh brother of mine”. Suddenly, we were all struck with the feeling that they were not five, but a dozen people playing for us. Every instrument had multiplied into three, and Robin’s voice was no longer intimidated by the space surrounding him.
Then they played another two songs, but something was wrong: it was as if the place suffocated us, as if we couldn’t find the right formula. The band seemed to become a bit suspicious, tense. So we left, bathed in sunlight and surrounded by tourists. We crossed the Pont Alexandre III and sat on the grass on the Invalides esplanade. There, they sang “Sun Giant” among the Sunday joggers. I recognized the band I had met a few months before.
4 – FLASHBACK
This was in February, before their album was out; before they were praised by Pitchfork and others (including us). They had long hair, they were smiling, they were living in a van, hippie-style. They waited for Nate Chan and me in the parking lot of a McDonald’s, in an area of San Francisco that hammed up the Flower Power nostalgia. Pecknold was excited just like a kid after he found an abandoned gymnasium in a side-street. They played in the grass, hummed while walking. It was the before-the-success band. Carefree, under no pressure, no heavy recognition.
(Translation by Nora)