- Article by: Troy Akers
- Posted: 05/15/2011
The Ryman is revered as one of the greatest concert venues in the South.
With grandfathers like Johnny Cash and Hank Williams to break in the stage, the declaration is undeniably true. In short, not every band fairs well in the hallowed hall.
Whether it’s the old spiritual aura emitting from the church pews or the “within spitting distance” proximity of the audience, this hall will make or break a band. On Friday, May 13, 2011, Fleet Foxes set a new standard.
Riding off the fumes of their epic sophomore release, Helplessness Blues, the bearded Portland pack opened the set with their lush instrumental, “The Cascades,” to a crowd that was more riveting than I have ever witnessed at The Ryman.
Robin Pecknold and the rest of the band seemed to exude a sense of appreciation for where their feet tread, speaking a line of thank yous after the first few songs. Going through strong tracks like “Battery Kinzie,” “Bedouin Dress” and “Sim Sala Bim,” the harmonies, led mainly by Pecknold, danced between every splinter of wood in the Ryman walls.
Almost mid-way through the set, after an impeccable version of “Mykonos,” the crowd was warm enough to start a string of standing ovations out of pure elation. Even the band appeared to be struck by the crowd’s over-the-top hospitality. Drummer Joshua Tillman went so far as to ask the audience for constructive criticism.
When the Foxes ended their main set with “Blue Ridge Mountains,” the crowd roared to their feet over the lines, “I heard that you missed your connecting flight / To the Blue Ridge Mountains, over near Tennessee.” It seemed every member of the band was giddy with anticipation to sing the line, knowing what it would incite.
After the finale, the audience wooed Pecknold back to the stage by several minutes of pew stomps and cheers. Quietly returning to the mic, appearing rather overwhelmed by the warmth of the crowd, Pecknold spent a few minutes thanking the audience and acknowledging the show as the best show they had played yet.
He would later declare on Twitter, “If I’m elected president, I’m building a Ryman Auditorium in every city in America.”
Pecknold dove into a beautifully delicate rendition of “Oliver James,” opening with a prerequisite of audience forgiveness if he forgot any lines. The entire band of Foxes walked back out for the title track, “Helplessness Blues,” and ended the night with the crowd on their feet.
Watching them leave the stage, there was no bone in my body that wasn’t thinking the same thing every other hipster knew deep down: That was a game changer for Fleet Foxes. The Ryman didn’t host Fleet Foxes, that night … Fleet Foxes hosted The Ryman.
The Cascades / Grown Ocean
Drops In The River
Sim Sala Bim
Tiger Mountain Peasant Song
White Winter Hymnal
He Doesn’t Know Why
The Shrine / An Argument
Blue Spotted Tail
Blue Ridge Mountains
Encore: Oliver James / Helplessness Blues