This Phoenix Foundation article was written by Jen Taylor, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Gavin Wells
The stage was set with the iconic ‘GUYD’ signs, the symbol and acronym for the latest release from New Zealand’s The Phoenix Foundation, signifying that they were to be entertaining the sold-out crowd at Oslo in Hackney, London.
The room was still noticeably empty when the Dutch group Amber Arcades climbed on stage. From the first twinkling guitar notes, their set was filled with strong pop songs featuring interesting chord progressions, enjoyable melodies and perfect harmonies. Frontwoman Annelotte de Graaf is engaging, even with her air of nonchalance. As the shadows of the guitar headstocks danced on the floor in the gap in front of the audience, it was obvious that those who had made the effort to arrive early had been sufficiently rewarded.
There were definitely some New Zealand accents in the crowd, but perhaps not as many as might have been expected. As a nice touch, The Phoenix Foundation started with ‘Mountain’, the first track of their latest album ‘Give Up Your Dreams’, which then led seamlessly into the second track of the album, ‘Bob Lennon John Dylan’. Musically, they were strong from the outset, although it took a few songs until the vocal levels and mix were correct. By the fourth song ‘Sunbed’, they had really found their groove.
By way of introducing their track ‘Playing Dead’, lead singer Samuel Flynn Scott announced that the song is about dying in order to be reborn, and he shouted “Let’s all die here together tonight! Who’s ready to die!” To confused cheers from the audience, they launched into the frantic mesh of noise that is ‘Playing Dead’, and Scott pulled the ‘GUYD’ eyemask that was on the top of his head down over his eyes, and proceeded to sing and play the whole song while wearing it. Once the epic musical breakdown at the end of the song died out, Scott proclaimed “Thanks, it was wonderful to share that experience with you”.
The Phoenix Foundation have a particular knack of building the ends of their songs into fantastic instrumental codas, keeping the energy going for just that bit longer.
There were many dream-state type songs in the set that are typical of The Phoenix Foundation. There were also moments of vast expanse with whale-like noises (their experimental song ‘Myth’), which may have risked losing the audience’s attention a little, however they managed enough energy throughout most of their set to make up for any down moments.
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Their set finished with the title track of their new album, ‘Give Up Your Dreams’. Surprisingly, not so many people in the audience seemed to know the lyrics. But the uplifting nature of the song (despite Scott shouting out lyrics like “Don’t let anyone tell you that you’re special”) had everyone bopping along.
The crowd were all left with that moment when the band says goodbye and leaves the stage but the houselights are still off. So before long they came back on with an exclamation of “Oh my God, Surprise!!!” from Luke Buda. First song of the encore was ‘Jason’ from their latest album, with its interestingly timed guitar riffs. At the end of the song, the sound was so big that it seemed like room was momentarily transformed into a stadium; a marching band probably wouldn’t have even gone astray.
Their final song was the one that everyone seemed to know the best, the title track from their 2010 album ‘Buffalo’. Scott had a GUYD tea towel wrapped around his head, Buda was on the floor smashing out the guitar chords, and everyone was clapping along jovially to the feel-good ending of the night, at the encouragement of the other band members. Once again, it finished with a huge instrumental that ensured a climactic ending to the whole event.