Indie rockers The War on Drugs release well-received, but slightly strange recordings. What's interesting about the group's live show is that it's also off-kilter, but in an entirely different way.
During Tuesday's sold-out double bill at The State Room, co-headliners TWOD went first and laid a sprawling, bombastic one-hour set on a crowd of hipsters and Tuesday night partyers that seemed to be appreciated. Often sounding like Bob Dylan circa 1978 leading Sonic Youth circa 1998, lead singer and band co-founder Adam Granduciel led the band through an up-tempo set that also revealed the Philadelphia resident's love of the Utah Jazz and an ability to make a crowd laugh.The band was rewarded with a Mark Eaton action figure that as of Wednesday morning will be onstage with the band each night, according to the group's Twitter feed.
Bassist Dave Hartley is the group's secret weapon, however. As keyboardist Robbie Bennett and Granduciel plied the crowd with spacey, feedback sounds during songs such as "Brothers" and "Best Night," it was Hartley who held down the bottom and provided inspired, funky fills that aided the band's sound. Closing with The Waterboys' "A Pagan Place," the Philly-based band offered a rarely tip of the cap to the English band that Granduciel described as "the best band nobody's heard of." Although "Slave Ambient," which was released last year drew the band widespread critical acclaim, you could make a legitimate argument for TWOD now holding that title as well.
Show closer Sharon Van Etten, pictured above, offered a much mellower, acoustic based set, which was highlighted by the wonderful melodies featuring Van Etten and keyboardist Heather Broderick sterling interplay. The songs "Magic Chords," and "Save Yourself" from her album's "Tramp" and "Epic" respectively showed why Van Etten's career is definitely in the ascendency. In the realm of "indie rock" - a music label that is used to describe far too many bands - it's not surprising that these two bands are grouped together, but in terms of their respective sounds, it's a bit of a shock, because the two acts have vastly different styles. Nonetheless, the co-headlining show worked as a whole and SLC should feel lucky the two bands paid a visit.