Austinist: Fang Island at Mohawk [Show Review and Photos]
By the end of Fang Island’s 45-minute set at the Mohawk on Friday, just about everyone in attendance was physically spent and drenched with sweat. However, just before the band’s encore song and penultimate track, “Daisy,” guitarist/vocalist Jason Bartell suggested to the crowd, “If you have any energy left, expound it.” It was all the motivation the otherwise exhausted crowd needed to ignore their ailments and devote their energy to the band for another three minutes. Throughout the duration of the song, everyone went harder than they had before, giving one last burst of strength before being two steps away from collapsing. It’s a feeling that ensures one will pass out as soon as their body hits a mattress out of satisfaction, and Fang Island more than earned their right to push the audience to that point.
A big reason why Fang Island’s music is so euphorically draining is their sheer abilities as musicians. The group’s three guitarists (which include Bartell, Chris Georges, and a touring guitarist) brilliantly played off each other with breakneck paced riffs and heroic solos. Meanwhile the touring bassist and drummer Marc St. Sauveur formed a solid backbone on which the guitars were allowed free range. Each song was effortlessly executed and performed with the kind of gusto that one expects from a band whose music is the equivalent of a caffeine infused shot of adrenaline. It all made for a harmonic force that one could not passively observe, as the band was having just as much fun playing as those in the audience had crowd surfing, mosh pitting, and yelling the lyrics at the top of their lungs.
The band played a very economical and precise set, filled with about a 60/40 split between material off of 2010’s self-titled masterpiece and this year’s equally strong (if slightly more subdued and refined) effort Major. Newer tracks like “Seek It Out” and “Sisterly” had a drive to them that wasn’t quite present on record, keeping them more consistent with the all-out intensity of songs like “Sideswiper,” “Welcome Wagon” and “Davy Crockett.” Each song sounded as vital as the one that preceded it, and there were plenty of moments between songs where the band reaffirmed their positively infectious optimism. Georges instructed those in the crowd to high-five the person next to them, a choice bit of banter came in the form of Bartell proclaiming “Hooray Friends!” before going into another jam session, and the group’s entire demeanor never veered far from hopeful and joyous. As such, the audience gleefully gave everything they had to show the band that they appreciated the positive energy they brought to the tiny, sold-out stage.
While it may be true that the band’s recorded output doesn’t have the same element of surprise as it did a couple of years ago, Fang Island are still among the best at what they do. They are a live force who exemplify the therapeutic qualities of letting everything go and rocking the fuck out, something that everyone can use every once in a while.