Foxygen is a pseudo-avant-garde and semi-psychedelic indie-rock band from Southern California. Formed in 2005 while frontmen Sam France and Jonathan Rado were in high school, the band has had several years — despite its youth — to explore every corner of the genres it has thrust itself in. At Outside Lands, it opened the set with a jazzy rendition of the title track off its 2013 album, “We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic,” kicking off an energetic set sprinkled with a spunky brass section. France emerged waving peace signs, shouting, “Peace, brothers and sisters!” — a reflection of his hippie persona that entertained and charmed the crowd throughout the set.
France donned a wide-brimmed fedora, a white blazer and Bowie-esque makeup masked by heart-shaped (literal) rose-colored glasses, while Rado appeared in an all-red suit — the pair matched the red and white cover of the album from which they played. The band’s set jumped right in with the theme of the locale, playing the soft and peaceful “San Francisco,” as France screamed ecstatically: “We’re here, we’re queer, we’re in San Francisco!” France and back-up vocalist Jackie Cohen sang and danced together in little choreographed numbers throughout the set, putting France’s full Foxygen character on endearing display.
From there, the band launched right into “Follow the Leader,” the first track on its latest album, Hang, released earlier this year, which bled into “Avalon,” which follows on the album as well. After “Avalon,” Rado lead a jam session of sorts with the band’s drummer, bassist and brass section, so that France and Cohen could run offstage for a costume change. Upon their return, the band transitioned its jam into “America” — a more croon-oriented, slower track off of Hang.
France’s performance was dynamic: he leaped, danced and crawled across the stage for every song. Together with Cohen and Rado, he lit up the stage with an electric joy that enveloped the audience, lifting them into the bliss of punchy horns, fun guitar riffs and lyrics that can be happily sung or screamed — depending upon one’s mood.
“On Lankershim” followed as a transition between the bouncy energy of “Avalon” and “America” and the leisurely, deeper vocals of “Upon a Hill.” Toward the end of its set, the band dove right into “Trauma,” also from Hang. Slowed-down instrumentals and France’s emotional howls for the song emanated a cathartic tone that was a necessary reflection of the violence in Virginia on the same day.
After pausing for a moment post-”Trauma,” France climbed down from the stage onto some equipment boxes just in front of the crowd, where he crouched down to the audience’s eye level, as the band tapped into “On Blue Mountain,” off of We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic. France proceeded to fumble around the stage, fist-punching into the air, screaming lyrics and nearly kicking down the mic stand. In the final moments, he even messily played trumpet. The band closed its set with a decelerated breakdown of “On Blue Mountain,” waving to the crowd as fans emphatically chanted, “One more song!”