Live Review: Fol Chen at the Echo

A young Fol Chen hopeful "tries out."
A young Fol Chen hopeful "tries out."
Rachel Carr

For their third week of their Monday night residency at the Echo, Fol Chen decided to do things a little differently. It was announced that they were going to "try out" ten different singers that they had found on Craigslist to be their new lead singer. Their old lead singer had not been packed off to rehab or stormed off in a fiery huff, as is usually the case when this kind of search is conducted. No in this case it's rumored that lead singer Samuel Bing just wanted to step out of the limelight and have someone else sing his songs, at least for a gig.

I went into the Echo conflicted about the decision to get strangers to do your singing for you. There are bands all over Los Angeles who would sell their right kidney to get a residency at the Echo and to have one that doesn't play their songs seemed a bit weak. And what about the Fol Chen fans who really just wanted to hear the songs that they loved? Wouldn't this exercise be unfair to them?

Perhaps, but if there were any hardcore Fol Chen fans who left in a huff after the first singer took the stage, no one seemed to notice.

After the first singer got on stage, it was clear that if you loved covers this was the night for you. Each contestant left their own mark on Fol Chen's quirky pop songs transforming into their own. It could have been a total train wreck. Despite the fact that these people had never met or practiced with the band before, all of them could carry a tune and most of them were pretty good.

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Although any inclination that the selection of singers had been completely random from Craigslist was dispelled within the first fifteen minutes. Of the ten people who tried out, seven of them were good looking young women and only three of them were guys. Not that it should be held against the band. An attractive lead singer does wonders for the popularity of any lineup.

The singers came in all sizes, shapes, and colors but what seemed to hold true for each of them was that they fell into one of two categories. They were either a singer or a showman, but not both. The most talented singers seemed to linger close to the mic as if all of their oxygen flowed from that one spot whereas the showmen danced around then stage and seemed to dread returning to the stand.

Which singer will Fol Chen actually choose? Only time will tell, but bands with upcoming residencies should take note. During these tryouts the audience's attention, which otherwise might have been focused on their beer or talking to their date, was held rapt by the stage. Something to think about. Also be sure and check in next week for another spectacle from Fol Chen. They're closing out their residency by having the metal band, Viscera, cover their entire set. An egregious abuse of one's residency? Probably. Worth the price of admission? Absolutely.


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