Saturday, November 19, 2011

Owl City: Live At The 9:30 Club

Owl City is currently on the All Things Bright And Beautiful Tour and earlier this week, he stopped by Washington DC's 9:30 Club.  On the 16th of November, a massive line of eager fans lined down the sidewalks surrounding the building.  What had otherwise been a damp and gloomy day would soon become a night of sunny music.

As the doors opened and everyone rushed in, opening band Days Difference warmed up the audience.  A pop band from Virginia, the group managed to get an enthusiastic response from the room.  Imagine Hot Chelle Rae without the mock-Ke$ha attitude or high pitched vocals.  I do have to say that something about their sound didn't quite mesh with Owl City.  The band's music would fit better with a more pop-rock oriented artist.

At around ten past seven, Owl City took the stage.  When the lights went down and the first sounds appeared, every mouth in the building shrieked.  Due to the overabundance of teenage girls that occupied the majority of the venue, a sonic boom of screams welcomed the night's act.  My ears were ringing before the main show even started.  With an extended opening of the first track off his new album, Adam Young popped out of the shadows and into the spotlight.

Adam has stated time and time again that he's as shy as they come, he even talked about it during a break in the music.  His stage presence was bashful and incredibly lighthearted.  Between every song, he would laugh off the applause with a disbelieving grin.  The euphoric mood prevailed above everything else.

Unlike some of Owl City's previous tours, a full live band supplied the music.  Young found himself surrounded by an acoustic drum set, a small string section, and various guitars and keyboards.  Plenty of programmed beats filled the evening as well.

From Of June to All Things Bright And Beautiful, the band played a solid set that tested the crowd's knowledge of their discography.  The crowd delivered.  Not a single syllable was missed as they sang along to "Hello Seattle" or the raving beat of "Umbrella Beach".  After a block of high energy numbers was pumped out, Adam took to the keyboard for the piano driven "Lonely Lullaby".

With the night's softest moment aside, it was time for the song everyone was waiting for.  The opening notes to "Fireflies" made even the most casual fans bounce off the walls.  This momentum continued through a wild version of "Kamikaze" and into my personal favorite, "Meteor Shower".  "The Yacht Club", a duet with LIGHTS that appeared on Owl City's newest record, ended the set.  Breanne Düren, who makes appearances on the albums, and tackles the synth on tour, took over LIGHTS' vocal duties.  The wait for an encore wasn't very long, as the group returned to the stage for two more songs.  A lively performance of "Vanilla Twilight" and the closing number, "If My Heart Was A House".

When listening to an Owl City album, it's easy to imagine what a live concert would look like.  Something similar to a few guys dancing around in front of some MacBooks, with maybe a synth or two.  In reality, the picture couldn't be further from these expectations.  There was plenty of dancing, but the full sound of a band really brought a new element to the music.  The strings were lush and the beats were hard.  It didn't feel like monotonous electo-pop without emotion.  Instead, Owl City was a bright blast of fun.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Foo Fighters, The Joy Formidable and Social Distortion: Live At The Verizon Center

On 11/11/11, the Foo Fighters brought their Wasting Light tour to Washington DC.  A sold out Verizon Center would witness the band play one of their final shows before starting the Australian leg of their tour.  Along with opening acts The Joy Formidable and Social Distortion, this would most definitely be a concert to remember.

The evening had a less than ideal start.  After I forgot the tickets a ticket mix-up, I headed into the stadium, bought a Foo t-shirt, grabbed some barely edible arena food, and found my seat.  If only I would have known about the group of incredibly drunk men seated directly in front of me, who would eventually be ejected from the show.  Seeing these dim circumstances certainly had me worried about the concert.  Luckily, the music turned out to be a completely different scenario.

The Joy Formidable, a trio from Wales, kicked off the night with a thirty minute set of five songs.  While the majority of the seats were still waiting for occupants, the band played hard and loud.  Those who showed up on time to see them were the lucky ones.  Takes from their album The Big Roar, including "Cradle", "Whirring", and "Austere", filled the space.  The Joy Formidable were a great way to start the concert and their sound matches the tour flawlessly.

While the arena continued to fill, Social Distortion began to play.  Lukewarm at first, the band picked up momentum as they went on.  "Story Of My Life" was a turning point, as it led into a stretch of songs ending with the climax of their "Ring Of Fire" cover.  Social Distortion felt like an odd fit to fill the spot between The Joy Formidable and Foo Fighters.  I feel like the order of Social Distortion playing before The Joy Formidable would've made more sense.  Either way, the Foo Fighters were up next and everyone was more than ready.

It was evident from the first note of "Bridge Burning" that tonight was going to be something special.  Having grown up between Springfield and Alexandria, Dave Grohl declared this his hometown show.  With a sold out arena of dedicated fans, the Foo Fighters pumped out a set that clocked in at three hours.

The majority of their latest record, Wasting Light, was heard along with a massive selection of their biggest singles and classic tracks spanning across almost every album.  Identical to Wasting Light's order, the set's opening song flowed directly into "Rope" with roaring excitement from an overly eager room.  After the two opening acts and several stage changes, these two songs seemed to fly by at an incredible pace.  By now, ever single body in the building was either dancing, throwing up the horns, or screaming every word back to the stage.  A familiar set of "The Pretender", "My Hero", and "Learn To Fly" followed.  "My Hero" was the night's climax in terms of crowd participation.

The band pummeled through song after song only to be occasionally interrupted by the always captivating, and often hilarious, banter or backstory.  Drummer, Taylor Hawkins took over the vocals for "Cold Day In The Sun" and once again for a cover of Pink Floyd's "In The Flesh?".  "These Days" was transformed into a Veteran's Day dedication, while "This Is A Call" reached back to the self-titled album.  "All My Life" ended the set as the lights went down to a howling crowd.

Encores on the Wasting Light tour have been notoriously long and filled with surprises, so when Dave came back out and stood upon a raised platform for an acoustic set, the enormous Verizon Center turned intimate.  He spoke to the audience between verses and sing-along choruses of "Wheels", "Best Of You", and "Times Like These".  The latter of the three led back into a full band performance.  I must admit that the solo acoustic rendition of "Best Of You" really changed how I feel about the song.  I've gone from liking it to loving it.

After the acoustic jam, Grohl introduced Bob Mould, of Hüsker Dü and Sugar, who joined the band for "Dear Rosemary" and a cover of Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers' "Breakdown".  Mould's irreplaceable vocals made "Dear Rosemary" one of the night's most memorable moments.  The Foo Fighters ended their marathon of a show with an all out rendition of "Everlong" that left everyone in the building at a new high.  It was the song that no one wanted to end, but it did, and everyone reluctantly stood in awe as the band left the stage

Unless you're dying to see the performing artist, I wouldn't suggest choosing the Verizon Center for a venue.  Unfortunately, it's nearly the only choice in DC for a venue of arena proportions.  Still, the Foo Fighters overshadowed every single complication or problem that I was faced with.  This was a concert that I'll never forget and I'll always recommend you see the Foo Fighters if ever possible.  Plus, they promised to play the 930 Club next time around and that is a show you will not want to miss.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

CITIZENS! - Girlfriend

CITIZENS! are an upcoming British band, London based to be specific, who are signed to Kitsuné.  You may know Kitsuné as the label who helped deliver acts such as DelphicHeartsrevolution, and Two Door Cinema Club.  CITIZENS!' debut single, "True Romance" comes out on December 19th, but you can download their new promo track "Girlfriend" at this very moment.  "Girlfriend" sounds a little bit like Franz Ferdinand circa 2009, and a lot like 80's new wave.  It's as catchy as pop music will ever be.  A full length album is expected to appear next year.  If it sounds anything like "True Romance" and "Girlfriend" then sign me up.

The band is currently on tour with The Rapture and will appear on Kitsuné's soon to be released compilation record.  You can download "Girlfriend", for the cost of an email address, here.  You can also stream and download the song from RCRD LBL below...