By Sam Linton
Photography by Rebecca Snape
Foxfire Forest! No, they’re not an alternative search engine to Internet Explorer; they’re a Toronto based indie-pop ensemble! (I apologize for that joke, but it got stuck in my head and it seemed as though the only way to exorcise it was to get it down in print.) Composed of Alex Ralph, Andre Lowy, Anna Edwards, Cameron Whitesell, Hannah Krapivinsky, Isaac Vernon, Joe Elaschuk, Monica Bettson and Neil Rankin, FF continues the current trend in indie music of having your band be really big, and having sound to match. This past Wednesday, they released their debut album in a showing at the Drake Underground. How was it? That’s what this journalist decided to find out…
(Cut to last Wednesday)
I arrived halfway through the set of Tropics, the pre-opening act, so it’s quite possible that they performed an extremely kickass first half of a set, only delving into the territory of “meh” after I arrived, but from what I saw, I might as well have missed all of their performance and just stayed in my friend’s basement drinking homebrew and watching Batman: The Animated Series (which I why I was late in the first place). I mean, they weren’t awful, but when people are turning their backs to the stage and engaging in in-depth conversations with each other while you’re playing, it’s no benchmark for success by any margin.
Fortunately, the next band, Entire Cities (the “opener proper”, as I like to consider them), served up a more captivating show: a musical antipasti to whet the appetite for the main event, in the tradition of all good opening acts. Their style: a flautist-infused rock with a country twang. Catchy, foot-stompin’, and just right to lead us into the main event.
Looking for all the world like a group of LARPers (this being the internet, I feel no need to explain what a LARPer is), dressed in crowns, capes, cloaks and tunics, Foxfire Forest manifested themselves on stage like kings and queens at court. This was also the style in which they addressed their audience, so it was nice that they had a theme going. They quickly set about energizing the audience with their mere stage presence alone, a skill honed no doubt by lead singer Neil Rankin’s days performing as an improviser, and soon the Drake Underground was alive with life: like unto a time-lost medieval reverie, only more electrical. Some slight static occurred when a couple of drunks, no doubt emboldened by the band’s heartening melodies, decided they were more important than the band and tried to steal their thunder by stealing their stage-space, but even that could not put out the Foxfire! (As a side note, the audience at this show displayed some of the most impressive unanimous decision-making I have ever seen in collectively tossing these douches out on their ears. It was like a river suddenly tossing two fish out onto the bank through the force of its current.)
After that bit of unpleasantness, the band carried the rest of the night nicely with their swankily-majestic brand of indie-pop. Sounding eerily like an indie-equivalent of the power metal bands I enjoy so much (this is not a backhanded compliment!), FF’s sound is melodic and permeating, like it’s coming from the very air itself. This is probably an effect of the combined vocal harmonies of Rankin, Bettson and Krapivinsky with the trumpet stylings of Andre Lowy, but I like to think there just might be a little elfin magic about it, too. In any case, like any good reverie, the night lent itself well to drinking, so much of its ending is lost in the fogs of my memory, but the good feelings remain from a night of good rockin’.
Needless to say, I ended up walking away with a CD.