Noise Pop '08: The Walkmen
The scene was thick on Wednesday night at The Independent. The place was packed and many bitter badge-holders were complaining outside, whom were denied entrance due to capacity issues. Those fortunate enough to make it inside were exposed to the aesthetics that make live music such an amazing experience. Inside, the air was smoky, the lights were low and the floor was sticky, which in any other instance is rather unpleasant, but in a concert setting, seems to be inviting – inviting you into a world of plastic cups brimming with beer and loud rock music.
Unfortunately, I missed The Broken West, a Merge band that seems to get some good press and, according to several people outside, played a great set that night. I arrived in between their set and The Walkmen’s. The floor was a sea of indie-clad scenesters that required some polite nudging to get through. I made my way upstairs to get a better view, just in time for the band to walk on stage.
This was my first time seeing The Walkmen live, even though I’ve loved their first album, Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me is Gone, and their follow-up, Bows + Arrows, for years. Before lead singer Hamilton Leithauser sang one note, I knew he would be awesome. He was decked out in a sailor’s jacket and slacks and had a swagger that made him seem cocky, yet welcoming, and composed, yet volatile beneath the surface. Throughout the hour-long set, he stretched his vocal cords to their limits and it seemed that the emotional scars he sang about had shot through the speaker system and left their own mark on everyone in the audience. Although the upright piano was missing in “Wake Up,” the song was a highlight of the show with Leithauser on rhythm guitar, playing the chords, but also occasionally tapping his guitar in the strangest of ways, which shot out a piercing sound that echoed through the room. They left the crowd erupting in applause and willingly came back out for an encore of “The Winning” and “The Rat.” Now, I was never particularly taken by “The Rat,” being that there are so many other great songs on Bows + Arrows, but seeing Leithauser scream, “You’ve got a nerve to be askin’ a favor,” while Matt Barrick ripped the drums apart was utterly inspiring. I have a new found respect for that song.