Total Strife, Forever? FOALS’ “Mental, Moral & Musical Meltdown” in Vancouver

Foals in Vancouver, pic by Mikala Taylor/

…So I thought I was going to write an effusive review about how Oxford, UK’s Foals roll hardcore for a mathrock band, how their back end (bassist Walter Gervers and drummer Jack Bevan) are simply ASTOUNDING for young guys, plus how intense singer Yannis Philippakis inevitably climbed on something. I would have gone on to say that I love Foals. (I would have also included a line or two about how Kiwi openers The Naked and Famous – check ’em out in our SXSW portrait piece – are on the rise with their radio-friendly alt-pop, and how utterly BORING Freelance Whales are.)


While the above is all utterly true, that’s not the gig I saw last night. No, in Vancouver on April 10 at the Commodore Ballroom, Foals were utterly FERAL.

What transpired was what Foals ’emselves described on their Twitter feed as a “mental, moral & musical meltdown.” It was awesome and scary, kinda like how I imagine bungee jumping naked would be.

Here’s what happened:

Somewhere around “Total Life Forever” (track three, they started with “Blue Blood”), Yannis, in typical fashion, started attacking his guitar, thrashing his curly head around, stomping the stage.  He stretched his legs across the gap at front stage, to put a foot on the barricade into the front row.  He dove in…then came back on stage.

Here’s the thing. Yannis likes climbing on shit and diving into shit. He stirs shit. He’s not a particularly warm guy, mumbles his banter and looks a bit twitchy. He’s incredible to watch, really. So when he dove into the crowd, it was like “okay, yeah, that’s what Foals do.” RIGHT OOOON!

Then he started flinging bottles of water over the crowd.

Then he started flinging mic stands onto the stage and into the crowd.

Then he started flinging himself around and into the crowd again.

Then he came stage right (where we were) and lunged.

Then he promptly climbed TWO sets of amp stacks – to stand and play with his head inches from the light rig and very high ceiling. See? (Keep sound off, it’s just hiss. I was right infront of the speakers.)

How’d he get down? Oh you know, JUMPED WITH  HIS GUITAR IN HAND, rolled awkwardly onto the stage and kicked over his amps. Tore apart his mic. Handed a part of the stand into the audience.

Then he threw his guitar down and paced the stage like a leopard about to attack, and within a second of me saying out loud, “HOLY FUCK HE’S GOING TO JUMMMMMMP!” took a running leap from the back of the stage into the crowd again for a sustained surf. Again, see?

At the same time, guitarist Jimmy Smith was totally playing off of Yannis’ bonkers. It was like they were sparring. Soon, Jimmy was also having his amps replaced, and ripping apart mic stands. It was like two angry radiators were being bled…a hiss of adrenaline spewed onto the going-ballistic Vancouver crowd.

But in the background? Bassist Gervers and Bevan sweated, while synth guy Ed Congreave quietly noodled. “Spanish Sahara” was beautiful, as per usual, “Olympic Airways” rocked and “Miami” was groovy. As much as their front end was unravelling, the back end was busy preventing the gig from going shambolic. It actually still sounded…amazing. Even the two guitarists’ still somehow held that part together.

Foals in Vancouver, pic by Mikala Taylor/

MEANWHILE, back at the funny farm…Yannis decided to take his own drum into the audience by attempting to dive into it again. When that didn’t work? He flung the drum into the pit. Why not!? The drum sticks had already gone in. Then he came over to our side of the stage, and flung a mic stand about two inches from my face, looked down, saw a group of us girls and bid a hasty retreat. Phewf!

During “Red Socks Pugie”, it all went nuclear. He dove off stage left, ran to the side of the venue, crawled ONTO THE SIDE BAR, circled all the way ’round the back of the Commodore, then came up behind…me. We hoisted him back on stage. But by that time, there wasn’t much of a stage. Just a wary three-piece at the back and two mental front guys. They left the stage utterly destroyed, the crowd going mental. But then returned for a two-song encore…

…which included a spitting contest between Yannis and Jimmy. Like full-on loogie-hocking. “We’re really lovers,” Yannis joked. Delightful!

So what happened? Booze and local BC bud? A choir of furies in their heads? Maybe.

But here’s what I reckon: Foals have been on tour SINCE THE DAWN OF TIME. Although this was only Day TWO of their latest North American tour, they were here only a few months ago and have been on top of each other for well over a year or two. While reckless of Yannis and Jimmy (mic stands hit fans, security guards, shit was flyin’), this fiasco/amazeball show smacked of an over-toured, young band that were letting off some serious steam. I pity their roadie, and any kid who got a shoe or metal in their face, but was that a smile on Yannis’ face when they left?

In the same tweet where the band acknowledged its meltdown, it also said Vancouver was “fffun”. And it was. It was insanely punk rock. But Foals? Like I said at the top, I love you. So don’t implode, please? And Yannis? It wouldn’t kill you to grin and chill out once a while. But it will kill you to jump off those amp stacks. \m/

UPDATE: Within three hours of posting the review (and sending it on to Yannis/Foals via Twitter), Yannis replied with a perfunctory, “Yr over-egging it.” Fair enough, I wrote this from a WOAH sorta place. They were prolly just being punk rock. Still, the rest of the guys did look pretty damn wary in the back. Here’s our convo. Were you at the gig?  Let me know what you thought!

Foals on Twitter

Yannis Phillipakis, Foals, pic by Mikala Taylor/

2 responses to “Total Strife, Forever? FOALS’ “Mental, Moral & Musical Meltdown” in Vancouver”

  1. Makes me a little wary of their show in St. Louis on Saturday, April 23. I’m a bit scared to be up front but I’m so short I’ll miss the entire thing if I stay holed up in back…here’s hoping I don’t end up with mic stand shards in me brain!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *