The Stone Foxes, The Top Hat, Missoula, MT- 7/16
Photo by Matt Riley
Some would describe The Stone Foxes music as purely electric, hardcore blues- even something that could crack open the powers of the sky and extract thunder and lightning from an otherwise scenic day. As it turned out something like this happened as the San Francisco rock band arrived in Missoula on Saturday afternoon. Coming off of two heavily attended shows in the college town of Moscow, Idaho, The Foxes pulled into the back of the quaint local venue with wind whipping and a magnificent thunderstorm in the making. As they backed their van into the loading dock, a bolt of lightning struck a telephone poll which then crashed down onto their van, smashing their windshield and shutting down power all throughout the area. The Stone Foxes had landed.
Two hours later and with their gear unloaded the power came back on in the venue just in time as Missoula folks and fans from as far away as Seattle started to filter in from the now passing storm. The band did a very personal and friendly meet and greet before taking to the stage at around 10 PM. Opening with a humorous narration of the events that preceded the show, Shannon Koehler (drums, harp and vocals) gave a very descriptive view of the lightning storm and the damage done, then segueing into “Black Rolling Thunder” off their debut self titled album. Spence Koehler drove the song on his guitar as Aron Mort’s aggressive baselines, and the screaming infectious vocals tied it together. After a few other high energy songs they brought their new keyboardist on stage, Elliott Peltzman to perform “Patience” off of last year’s breakthrough album Bears and Bulls. Without Avi Vincour in the band to lend his layered guitar work and falsetto Jack White-esque vocals, the song came across a lot more abrasive and raw. To all in the crowd the ebb and flow of this song really resonated well, as evidenced by the amount of people crowding the dance floor.
The show moved forward quite quickly with the now-quartet moving through a gauntlet of songs, some new, some old and some soon to be recorded in the coming winter. Another huge highlight was a drawn-out and almost psychedelic take on “Reno’s Casinos.” With its quick and catchy chorus, the groundwork was laid for a total flip in tempo and mood for the slow part of the song which was patiently jammed out- almost as an ambient build back into the regular time signature and beat of the song. From here, “Ballad of a Thin Man” was executed in an in-depth rocking blues fashion, which subsequently led into another cover “King Bee,” a true swamp blues song by Slim Harpo (you might have heard this song showcased during the new commercial for Jack Daniel’s Honey). “Passenger Train” slowed things down some and highlighted the beginning to the end of the show, which consisted of the band rotating instruments and hitting the dance floor amongst the crowd for a fan participatory “Stomp,” and then a new song, “Psycho,” which can be downloaded for free on their website, and finally a heavy and dark finisher with “Mr. Hangman.” Spence rocked the guitar back and forth, playing slide and Mort on bass powered through drop bottom licks. It was impressive.
For an encore the Foxes all traded vocals and harmonies for a great nine minute take on The Band’s “The Weight.” The quartet the left the stage after a solid 90 minute set, mingled with the crowd, talked shop and gave autographs all the while knowing they were for lack of a better word: stranded in Missoula, Montana until their van could be fixed. Really the only negative one could pull from the show was that it felt to be over as soon as it began.
Over the past year the Foxes have endured many changes and grown as a band in a very unique and positive direction. Their live show, while always high-powered, has continued to be tweaked and twisted into a very personal and fun experience. After being featured in Relix Magazine, opening for The Black Keys and playing major festivals such as Wakarusa and the upcoming Outside Lands; it is fair to say that the sky, when not raining down lightning bolts, is truly limitless for this band and its music.