[rather bad photo by acidjack]
Circuit des Yeux makes lacerating, personal music that belongs in a certain kind of place, both spiritually and physically. Haley Fohr is four records in now at age twenty-five, and her latest album, Overdue, was hailed by the ever-reliable Marc Masters of Pitchfork, along with several others, as her best yet. Fohr’s music is somber and dark, delicate at times, unafraid to be dissonant when it needs to be. The Chicago-based musician has played in and around New York several times, but I had missed my chances. As happened a few times this year, Hopscotch Music Festival let me correct that mistake.
Over time, especially on Overdue, Circuit des Yeux’s compositions have taken on a grander scale, and we saw that in action right off the bat, as Fohr led with a brand new, as-yet-untitled song. Along with another new song and two more Overdue tracks, the set was bookended by “Acarina”, one of three Overdue tracks played. In this setting, it became a slashing, sprawling explosion of distortion that made the original seem almost polite — a gem of a live version. I might venture that the added fury packed into it paired well with Fohr’s mood, as I’ll discuss below.
The truth is that somebody could not have picked a worse venue for Circuit des Yeux, seated alone on a low stage in an Irish bar best suited to party music or cover bands. Despite that I knew several people who came to the venue specifically to see Circuit des Yeux, that couldn’t overcome the fact that this was difficult music being played in a loud bar to a crowd much more indifferent than they ought to have been. This is the kind of scheduling mishap that also led, in part, to the festival’s well-publicized artist blowup across town this same night. To her credit, Fohr didn’t call names or lash out. She leaned into her guitar, hair obscuring the louder side of the room, and sang with an intensity that fought its way through. For me as a fan, what is most striking about this set is just how good it is in recorded form — that is, with the advantage of being able to remove most of the audience from the equation.
That’s all well and good, but to read Circuit des Yeux’s take on this set is to be reminded that a concert is not a one-way event. Granted, unlike an artist’s own show, a festival audience may not have paid to be there specifically to see that artist. But that doesn’t mean that the crowd doesn’t have a responsibility to the performer they are seeing. To be in an audience is to be an active participant in the artist’s experience of the show. An audience can elevate, and an audience can also hurt. Before you bother to finish the rest of this, or click play on the streaming tracks, or do anything else, I would urge you to read Fohr’s piece. No musician — be it one you like, one you dislike, or one you’re indifferent to — deserves to be treated like a performing monkey. An artist owes us to do their part, and we owe them as an audience to do ours. A concert isn’t church, sure, but it is a shared space with a single focal point — the artist. Anything that takes away from that is doing damage: to the artist, to the other fans who paid to be there, and to the whole enterprise of what live music is supposed to be about.
For my part, I found Fohr’s performance compelling and look forward to her next steps. Circuit des Yeux isn’t easy or conventional, and that is part of what has made it a favorite of both critics and the other forward-thinking artists such as Xiu Xiu who have toured with her. This music deserves our continued attention and respect. For those that don’t “get it”, whether that’s the case with this artist or with somebody else, please stay away or shut up. The rest of us are trying to hear.
I recorded this set with a soundboard feed provided by Brandon, the night’s engineer, plus Audio Technica 3031 microphones, which were turned way down in this mix. It ended up sounding quite good. I hope you enjoy it.
Stream the full show:
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Circuit des Yeux
Hopscotch Music Festival
Tir na Nog
Raleigh, NC USA
Exclusive download hosted at nyctaper.com
recorded and produced by acidjack
Soundboard (engineer: Brandon)+ Audio Technica 3031 (at SBD, ROC)>Roland R-26>2x24bit/48kHz WAV>Adobe Audition CS 5.5 (align, levels, mix down, compression)>Izotope Ozone 5 (EQ, effects)>Audacity 2.0.3 (track, amplify, balance, fades, dither and downsample)>FLAC ( level 8 )
Tracks [Total Time 39:34]
01 Untitled 1
02 Untitled 2
04 Nova 88