I saw several bands live over the summer. Florence + The Machine and The National’s anthemic chamber pop at BST in front of thousands in Hyde park, Black Midi drawing a respectable crowd at EartH despite having released virtually no music (I also wrote a review for their show I’m sure nobody read) and Muse playing stadium rock below a towering inflatable robot to a packed Olympic stadium.
But by far the best gig I went to was also by far the smallest, Foxing at The Dome on July 17th.
Both of the friends I had dragged along had never even heard of Foxing. Arriving slightly later than intended expecting the opening act to be already playing I was surprised to see the venue almost empty allowing us to take a spot right at the front. Unlike any other band I have ever seen there was absolutely nothing between the stage and the audience, we are so close that my friend “accidentally” unplugs the guitar at one point.
Foxing released their debut The Albatross in 2014, now considered one of the best of the 2010s Midwest emo revival incorporating orchestral post-rock elements reminiscent of The Antlers into the classic screaming melodramatic formula of emo music. Dealer, released the following year was more subdued and mature leaning further into post-rock influences.
Their latest album Nearer My God is one of the best, most forward thinking and ambitious rock albums of the decade. “This is no OK Computer” Frontman Conor Murphy said in an interview with Uproxx, “But for us that’s what it feels like”. I think the comparison is appropriate. A genre transcending modern rock album rooted in Midwest emo but combining everything from glitch pop to art rock to alternative R&B.
In a reddit AMA question asking which albums most influenced it the band responded: Frank Ocean’s emotional Alt-R&B masterpiece Blonde, Sufjan Stevens’ chaotic electro-folk and progressive pop magnum opus The Age Of Adz, Radiohead’s political Art rock classic Hail To The Thief and Interpol’s influential atmospheric post-punk debut Turn On The Bright Lights.
‘Grand Paradise’, the opening track of Nearer My God also opens the show with a drum machine loop and reserved synths slowly building until Ricky Sampson and Eric Hudson’s guitars finally kick in alongside John Hellwig’s art rock drumming as Murphy screams “I’m shock collared at the gates of heaven” igniting the initially subdued crowd who break into a full on mosh during the song’s outro which sounds like Radiohead, Godspeed You! Black Emperor and My Chemical Romance covering Taylor Swift’s ‘Style’. “Hopefully we don’t fuck it up” Murphy says as Sampson plays the iconic tapped guitar riff of ‘The Medic’ and the crowd joins Murphy singing “She says, you always smell like cigarettes”. Sampson does more tapping during the explosive guitar solo of ‘Lich Prince’ as Hudson plays his guitar behind his back and bassist Brett Torrence jumps around the stage. “There’s no more sun and no more light shine through” the crows echoes during the politically charged ‘Slapstick’ which references Trump’s climate change denial. The band plays ‘Rory’ shrouded in darkness bar a single light illuminating Murphy singing “Why don’t you love me back” as the song builds from slow piano into powering drums and Murphy gives an emotional trumpet solo. A few fans climb on the stage and jump into the crowd, there isn’t a security guard in sight to stop them.
Foxing closes the set with the title track ‘Nearer My God’. In many ways it is the thematic centrepiece of not only the album but the show. Foxing knows Nearer My God won’t be the next OK Computer and they’ll never headline festivals or sell out stadiums like Florence or Muse but they’re going to give everything they have anyways. “I’d sell my soul, to be America’s pool boy the crowd centrefold” Conor shrieks, it feels like he is on the verge of crying and laughing at the same time. During the outro he jumps into the crowd who join him singing “do you want me at all”.
Foxing draw a crowd of only a few hundred compared to the tens of thousands watching Muse and Florence + The Machine. Despite this they manage to make music considerably more ambitious, rock much harder and convey far more emotion. Compared to being hundreds of feet away barely able to make out the silhouette of Matt Belamy, I much preferred watching Foxing transcend from the front row. “I feel the love in suspension and nearer my God” Conor yells, arms outstretched to a crowd similarly extending upwards inches apart, like the Michelangelo painting of God reaching to man.