The Exchange, Regina SK, May 29

Photo: Peter Scoular

BY Josiah NelsonPublished May 30, 2019

Foxwarren appeared as one, animated by blue and red lights, but the crowd's eyes went to Andy Shauf, who hadn't played in his hometown since November of 2017. He greeted the crowd as he usually does: with a shy, squirming smile and a few tentative words of welcome. He told the audience that the band were scared to be playing, but the confession felt like shtick Shauf just can't shake.
Truth to tell, Foxwarren didn't look scared at all — they looked fraternally occupied. Darryl Kissick spent at least half the show with his back to the audience, grooving on his bass as he looked at his brother Avery on drums. Lead guitarist Dallas Bryson hazarded a few peeks at the audience as he approached the mic, with his furry black mustache, to haunt Andy's crystallized, wheat-y warble, but even then, his look was glazed. It felt like, in the best possible way, Foxwarren were a group of friends playing some songs they've perfected before an audience who just happened to be there.
Like much of Foxwarren's music, the set was snappy and loose. The sort of meticulous orchestration of Shauf's solo music was present, but was married to Dallas's tendency to expertly and indeterminately slide on his guitar, like a luger who goes down backwards because he's too bored to do otherwise. His hypnotic, spacious guitar threatened to float into the prairie sky between the split seconds that Avery spiked his drums. There was some speculation about whether the song's interludes described a dream or a reality that was loosening, becoming unhinged.
There was a loose, free energy about Andy Shauf and the band. They seemed fresh. When Shauf opened up the floor for questions, people yelled atop one another, a sort of furious reminder that they existed; he explained he grew tired of bartenders pointing at his old Pilsner hat whenever he ordered a drink of the same, so he threw it out, that his new haircut made him feel exposed, and that he bought a yellow shirt in Japan. He also defended his title of master of the failed joke, following every borderline quip that didn't land with, "I thought that was going to get a bigger laugh," which always got a huge laugh.
But Shauf grew tired of talking about himself. He outed Darryl as being the birthday boy. Colin Nealis — on keys for this tour — was tasked with explaining why he was only wearing one shoe. (No explanation.) During the final songs, Shauf spent the majority of his time between verses smirking at his bandmates as his head stuttered forward to the beat. Avery and Colin smirked back.
When the audience pleaded for an encore, Andy came out alone to play a new song. With his shiny, distorted guitar tone, and his voice that could have only been birthed on the prairies, Andy stunned the crowd into something too enrapt to call silence, before displaying his index and middle finger in tandem and sliding backstage.

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