For the past couple of years Black Foxxes have been working feverishly away on the follow up to their 2020 darkly enchanting self-titled album, embarking on a crowd funding journey for fourth LP ‘The Haar’. Record complete, the Exeter indie-grunge trio announced a solitary show at Le Pub in Newport (later adding dates in London and Glasgow too), eventually confirming the gig would be an epic two hours long, showcasing much of their forthcoming new release.
Which is where we find ourselves tonight, eagerly stood in the packed-out 100 capacity venue with a dedicated hardcore grouping of fans from as far afield as Germany and Wolverhampton as incense burns from on top of the amp stack and Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers’s version of ‘Islands In The Stream’ rolls out from the speakers. This is not to be the average Friday night out in Newport.
Forgoing the expectation of having a support band in order to lengthen their own set, Black Foxxes weave through the crowd to find the stage, frontman Mark Holley in trademark black beanie, bassist Jack Barrett wearing leopard print harem pants, drummer Finn Mclean sporting a Death Grips t-shirt and, additional member for these tour dates, saxophonist Sam Irvine with ‘Let’s summon demons’ emblazoned on his top. As soon as they find the platform, the four-piece tear into a blistering clarinet assisted version of ‘The Diving Bell’ that would suit a lesser band’s final song for the night. However, as this is Black Foxxes, the set has barely started to get warmed up.
The group have an abundance of new material to share but seem to have a fine awareness that we’ve come to hear the songs we know as well, with the yelped “Come call me erasable” refrain from ‘Joy’ causing hectic movement from their enraptured audience, the track from second album ‘Reiði’ sounding beasted up with Irvine’s saxophone. It’s not long before new music from ‘The Haar’ starts flowing though, with ‘Where Have You Been?’ sounding a glorious grungy death waltz and ‘Carsaig’ like their take on Muse’s ‘Hyper Chondriac Music’.
Whilst careening through some of their most adored numbers – we’re looking at you, ‘Jungle Skies’ and ‘Panic’, there are moments when Holley’s voice morphs entirely and beautifully into Jeff Buckley’s and other moments so heavy that if they went up just one decibel your ears would be gushing scarlet. Before kicking off ‘River’ the frontman makes the wholesome comment that, next to their newest material, this is the first song he ever wrote, 10 years ago, a song that descends into fierce feedback from the mic and even more otherworldly saxophone.
As the first hour of the show ends we’re promised the second half would be weirder than the first and as the next newie we hear is shivering piano-led ‘Only With You’ we find that statement to be true. In ‘Bitcrusher’ and ‘Shakey’, there are tracks that borrow from Pixies deranged ebullience and, at times, Black Foxxes achieve the looming guitar sound Kevin Shields bust a record label to create with My Bloody Valentine. The stop and start involved in ‘Drug Holiday’ threatens to give us whiplash and ‘Oh, It Had To Be You’ veers between drummer Finn Mclean, eyes closed, getting lost in the song’s dreaminess, and Holley’s anger-spasm cries of “Cheater, cheater, watch it as she moves me”, as he reaches for his glass of red wine.
The apex of the entire night comes with underappreciated masterpiece ‘Badlands’, the band entirely aware of the utter gold that the song is and loving every moment of performing it, Holley savouring the stuttered seething elucidation of lines “I am confused, conflicted, why’s this so hard? I am contorted in my vision, why’s this so hard?”, letting the track meander into Irvine’s capable hands with a saxophone solo before crashing into its final violent crescendo.
With the audience recovering from a two hour set that demonstrated relentless passion and energy, Holley hops off stage to dash for the merch stand, with endless “thank-yous” from grateful attendees echoing after him. Making light conversation and taking time to snap selfies with fans, Holley consistently thanks everyone who attended in the midst of t-shirt purchases.
Coupled with aforementioned Kickstarter to support their impending fourth album, and as the rest of the band set about unloading their gear from the stage, it was a stark reminder that true DIY rock and roll is thriving, flourishing in the same soil that allowed punk to bloom. Needless to say, with ‘Foxxes at the helm, we reckon the future of rock and roll is in safe hands.
Black Foxxes have finished this run of dates and quite frankly have nothing else announced going forward yet, though we hear a European tour is in the offing and releases from ‘The Haar’ can’t be too far off yet. We’ll be giving the first single a write up whenever it materialises. For now though, if we’ve whet your whistle, howsabout giving ‘Badlands’ a listen: