Foxygen played the Belly Up — or, as frontman Sam France jokingly referred to it, the Hard Rock Cafe — on Wednesday.
Appearing onstage in tight pants, a cowboy hat, and a fishnet shirt (two out of three of which he would quickly discard), the longhaired, lanky France looked like a cross between Iggy Pop and Bret Michaels. And once the music started, he commanded the stage with an old-school rock bravado that rivaled either of those guys. France spent large portions of the set strutting, scowling, flipping off the crowd, and collapsing into a sweaty heap on the stage floor.
The intense performance bore little resemblance to the band’s excellent 2013 release, We Are the 21st Century Ambassadors of Peace & Magic. Whereas that album frequently employed a laid-back, almost stately Velvet Underground vibe, Foxygen’s Solana Beach show was an exercise in unhinged rock and roll showmanship.
The results of that approach were mixed. Mellower 21st Century tracks like “No Destruction” bore only passing resemblance to their recorded versions. (The band opted not to play the tranquil album highlight “San Francisco,” which was probably for the best.) France’s melodies were also hard to pick out at times, but the band’s unbridled approach was never less than entertaining. France even shared the spotlight with a trio of female backup singers whose synchronized dance moves and contagious sense of fun made for an even more exhilarating set.
Showmanship was also the name of the game for Gary Wilson‘s opening performance. Arriving on a stage littered in dismembered mannequin parts, the San Diego-based veteran and his band — all dressed in fright wigs, bathrobes, and neon duct tape that together looked like a psychedelic take on Zoolander‘s Derelicte clothing line — were met with silence by the perplexed crowd. But after a wonderfully bizarre and confident set, Wilson and Co. had won over the crowd. “We love you!” one attendee shouted as the rest of the attendees clamored for one more song.