The War on Drugs show at Music Hall of Williamsburg was one of those shows where no one wanted to get close to the stage until the headliner started setting up. There was this strange divide, like an invisible barrier that no one wanted to cross until Ape School loaded off the stage. The two opening bands had different reactions to this, but The War on Drugs didn’t have to worry about that. Turns out, their fans really mirror their own aesthetic of being a bit on the shy side, and very concentrated on what they do. There was little interaction, but when there was, it was meaningful.
Singer Adam Granduciel was pulling off this borderline Texas tuxedo look, with worn jeans and a worn denim-looking jacket with ripped elbows. Besides their brand of Americana, these Philly boys can pull off that just dragged down a dusty road look with ease. They opened with “Buenos Aires Beach,” which was met with audible affirmation from the crowd. Bassist David Hartley really pulled off his bass lines with ease, adding a bit of funky texture to the easy rolling rock songs. Granduciel had a long and rolling guitar solo in almost every song, choosing his instrument from a whole rack of acoustics and electrics, and for an array of effects, he had an impressive spread of pedals at his feet. He stood on his tip toes to sing into the mic, like his own melodies lifted him forward.
At one point a fan jumped up on stage, but chose the wrong moment in-between songs, and so had nothing to do but get politely instructed to get back off the way he came. His action, however, prompted Granduciel to invite whoever had the balls to get up on stage and play a song with them to do so, and a much more prepared girl jumped up and got donned with one of Adam’s electric acoustics so she could strum along, mouthing “oh my god!” to her friends between glancing over to Granduciel for timing. That was very cool of the band to do that – now one of their fans has a story she can tell for years.
Overall, the crowd was super calm and peaceful. No wars, but from the smell wafting through the venue, a certain drug was adding to that peacefulness. Everyone was so subdued that I wondered if there would even be enough gusto for the band to come back out for an encore. Turns out that everyone must have gotten a second wind, or they realized that they had to wake up and show some spirit, and put a pause on being intertwined with their romantic Americana other long enough to show the band their appreciation. Then we got three more songs.
The War on Drugs have a couple more US tour dates, before breaking for May and then playing a handful of gigs in Europe. Stay in touch with them for updates on Facebook and Twitter, and if you haven’t checked out their album, find it here, as well as select tunes on Bandcamp.
Photos (c) Kelly Knapp