Live Review: The War on Drugs with Phoebe Bridgers at the Moore Theatre 10/9

all photos by Matthew B. Thompson (view set)

Last Monday, at the first of two sold-out shows at The Moore, Philly’s The War on Drugs delivered nothing short of a visually and viscerally stunning display of dream rock dopeness with their cascading waterfall of sound. It’s like multiple shots of Nixon-defying dope coursing through your veins that makes you in-the-moment bliss out, forget your surroundings, cavort in (or around) your seat, and cathartically howl along to the atmospheric amphetamine that is their euphoric sound. But the dark calm before the synth-riders-on-the-storm was opener Phoebe Bridgers, an LA-bred songstress and embracer of acoustic and melancholic strummers.

Phoebe Bridgers

Supporting The War on Drugs for both shows, and part of their Pacific Northwest tour, Phoebe Bridgers laid the night’s foundation of balladry with her harrowing folk songwriting, which grabbed the attention of Ryan Adams enough to record her debut EP, in 2015, on his label.

The poetry of her craft encompasses a dashing timbre, delicate distress, and a brilliant display of dexterity. She’s dexterous to the point where she dared to tune all her strings to an alt-tuning without using a tuner, which, one, is kind of a performing taboo, and two, is pretty difficult to pull off by ear, but she did so tactfully and used it to her advantage to accent her aloofness on stage muttering, “To be anticlimactic, here’s another slow, sad song.”

There’s something about Bridgers’ emotive lyricism that seems to have a cinematic awareness that portrays a forlorn cast of feelings pondering through a rainy window. The balance of slide guitar, minimal — yet intentional — drum hits and punctuated piano all paint a soundscape that draws you into her angsty world. To the crowd’s delight, she paid homage to Tom Petty by playing a stag version of “It’ll All Work Out.” She cashed out with “Motion Sickness” the one upbeat song on her setlist that night. She’ll be back in Seattle supporting Noah Gundersen at The Neptune on Friday, November 17th.

Now the band of the hour.

The anticipation of being awestruck floods the crowd as leader/songwriter Adam Granduciel and his band take the stage. The Moore Theater continues to billow with fog, rolling in like a mid-winter Seattle morning, so thick that it initially envelops half of the main floor. Before they even started playing their set fans were giving them a standing ovation, which certainly wouldn’t be the last for the night. It’s easy to say they opened with a few crowd-pleasers since the crowd literally one-upped each song with raving hoots and hollers as the night progressed with high-octane energy, sensory-overload LED acrobatics and a crescendo of wave after wave of climaxes.

The ’80s rock ‘n’ roll demeanor of The War on Drugs can be attributed to the roots Adam Granduciel planted when he first started the band with Kurt Vile based on their affinity for Bob Dylan. The band’s earlier, more folk-centered material reflects a mid-career stage of Dylan, whereas, their latest successes A Deeper Understanding (2017), their major label debut, and Lost in the Dream (2014)their commercial breakthrough, both reflect a later nod to greats like Dylan, in their slow jams, and Springsteen in their more adrenaline-throttled jams. This time around, they seemed to promote their 2014 and beyond brand.

So naturally, with ‘roided-out riffs from Granduciel, bulging baritone sax solos from Jon Natchez, and a feeling of being raptured with rippling melodies, it’s no wonder the band is able to satisfy and galvanize showgoers for a two-hour set. They’re smart. They know how to appease their audience through the spectacle of synchronized lighting. When they played their sonorous single “Red Eyes” from Lost in the Dream they had the stage dressed in crimson. When they played “An Ocean in Between the Waves” they were in a cerulean ocean via special effects of wavering, ground-lit lighting. When the music was minimal the convex and concave light fixtures were manipulating your mood to match. Theatrically, towards the end of the show, after an insatiable amount of brightness, the band descended into a slow decrescendo — each measure met with a little less light until they slowly faded into a full-fledged, foggy, dark oblivion. The absence of light was just as breathtaking as the omnipresence of light. Leaving a show with such an eidetic affect is a true testament to the artistic arc of The War on Drugs that can only bend towards a brighter light.

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Monday Music News

photos by Matthew B. Thompson (view set)

  • The eternally sarcastic Father John Misty has created a country version of the title track off his latest album Pure Comedy. Clearly intentioned as parody, Josh Tillman puts on a country accent and changes the instrumentation, adding the exclaim: “That’s right boys, bring it on home!” He even accidentally lets out a laugh at one point. The caption below the YouTube video says “now libs and chuds each have their own version to weaponize.” [ Under the Radar ]

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In Stores Now 10/16


On her fifth full-length, Dallas-bred, New York-based artist St. Vincent (aka Annie Clark) “successfully combines bigger production with some of her most personal songs to date,” notes KEXP Music Director Don Yates. “The album’s diverse sound ranges from frenetic New Wave and slinky funk-pop to lush, string-laded ballads on songs combining an intricately textured, densely produced sound with anxiety-fueled lyrics revolving around issues of power, control, identity, and mortality.”

Melbourne, Australia’s Courtney Barnett hooked up with Philadelphia’s Kurt Vile for “a warm, casual and utterly charming set of shaggy-dog folk-rock. The songs are a mix of originals and covers, with most of them about writing songs, musician camaraderie and the creative process.” On his latest solo LP, Led Zeppelin frontman Robert Plant delivers “a well-crafted blend of folk-rock, blues and various North African and Middle Eastern influences, featuring a warm, often-dreamy sound combining a variety of acoustic and electric instrumentation with his weathered vocals and reflective lyrics.”

Montreal band Stars shine on their eighth album with “a fine set of anthemic, ’80s-steeped synth-pop combining bright synths, ringing guitars and occasional strings with wistful melodies and melancholy lyrics of love’s travails.” Toronto-based trio The Rural Alberta Advantage bring a “well-crafted set of anthemic folk-pop with energetic acoustic guitar, soaring keyboards, punchy rhythms and fist-pumping song hooks.”
Read More »

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Song of the Day: Wilsen – Garden

Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Today’s song, featured on The Morning Show with John Richards, is “Garden” by Wilsen, from the 2017 album I Go Missing In My Sleep on Secret City Records.

Wilsen – Garden (MP3) Read More »

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Friday Music News

photo by Beth Eisgrau-Heller (view set)

  • Charly Bliss has shared a new video, perfect for Friday the 13th, for Guppy track “Scare U.” Directed by lead singer Eva Hendricks and Andrew Costa, the clip is inspired by an episode of Buffy the Vampire Slayer called “Doublemeat Palace” from season six of the show. It casts Hendricks as a trainee at a fast food restaurant who quickly notices that things are not quite as they seem at her new place of work. Charly Bliss are playing the Showbox on Saturday, January 13 opening for Wolf Parade. [ Paste ]
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Music That Matters: Voyage

Check out some of the KEXP DJ’s favorite artists from the Pacific Northwest and around the world on-the-go. KEXP’s Music That Matters weekly podcast brings you an exclusive mix of new music from the world’s best independent artists.

Youryoungbody at KEXP in 2015 // photo by Melissa Wax

Currently you’ll hear:

Music That Matters, Vol. 586 – Voyage

Audioasis host/Expansions rotating host Sharlese spins a continuous, danceable set with a spectrum-spanning mix of silvery electronic music featuring new songs from Boy Harsher, Youryoungbody, and Sally Dige.

1. Iv/An – Somewhere There’s a Hunger Strike
2. Wire Spine – Hellraiser
3. Frequence Noir – I Could Die
4. High-Functioning Flesh – Stationed
5. Boy Harsher – Motion
6. Webdriver Torso – Web_006
7. Haunted Horses – Assembly
8. Sextile – Ripped
9. Mala Herba – Rusaki
10. Benway’s Bureau – Flutter Dance
11. Sally Dige – Holding On
12. Delusional Signals – Kino
13. Youryoungbody – 4ever

Listen here: (MP3)

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KEXP Exclusive Interview: Josh Rawlings

all photos by Alley Rutzel (view set)

From a patio overlooking the foothills of the Cascade Mountains near Leavenworth, WA, Seattle musician, Josh Rawlings, prepares himself for a month-long writing session with famed Seattle music producer, Ryan Lewis. Rawlings, who has toured with the golden-voiced Allen Stone and is one-fourth of the award-winning neo-jazz band, Industrial Revelation, has grown into a coveted keys player ever since graduating from Cornish College of the Arts and earning his stripes playing “The Hang” jam at Lo-Fi. Known for his skill and acumen on the Fender Rhodes, Rawlings’ keys work can be heard all over Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ This Unruly Mess I’ve Made, among many other projects, and he is the main in-house piano player for Lewis as the producer’s career continues to grow and reinvent. As music writers stream in and out of the Leavenworth musical Batcave, we had a chance to catch up with Rawlings and ask him about his journey and how he got where he is today.

When did you first touch a piano?

I first started playing the black-and-whites when I was three years old. I got a keyboard that Christmas that I still have to this day. It’s amazing that it still works — a Yamaha Portasound, which has a drum machine on it. I sometimes say my first musical influence that I can really recall was Mozart because the demo button the keyboard played a really cheesy, synthy version of the “Bum, bumbum, bumbumbum bumbum bum” song. I pretended back in the day like I was playing that. I just loved it. Not for the demo button, but for all the things it could do. I could go into my own world, make beats, play sounds. It was pretty advanced for a small toy keyboard. My parents would say I started loving music when I was in the womb, though. I’d kick to the music at the concerts they’d bring me to when my mom was still pregnant. And as soon as I could grab, I was banging sticks on pots and pans. Read More »

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Live Review: Modest Mouse/Built to Spill at the Washington State Fair 9/21

all photos by Matthew B. Thompson (view set)

As a born and bred Northwesterner, seeing a dual lineup of my teenage (and adult) favorites Modest Mouse and Built To Spill play at the fair I went to every single year from the time I was a child until I was a pre-teen, the Puyallup Fair (I’m sorry, but it will never be the Washington State Fair to me) was a surreal experience. On the long journey from Seattle to Puyallup, I had an interesting discussion with my partner, who’s from Orange County, and our friend who’s from Memphis about the fact that they had always romanticized Seattle and the music scene here from the time they were young. Our discussion started with how influential and important Modest Mouse and Built To Spill were to us as adolescents and grew into a discussion about how it feels like Seattleites take for granted the wealth of amazing music that has come out of here and continues to do so, not to mention the cornucopia of opportunities for musicians. I could go into a long think piece about that, but I’ll spare you and just get to the show review.

We get to the fair fairly early to enjoy the wholesome type of fun that fairs provide. It’s a strange scenery for a show and we run into a number of friends and people from the Seattle scene while enjoying our elephant ears. I find my seat promptly at 7:30, which is unlike me but turned out to be for the best since Built To Spill started at roughly 7:28 as a beckoning call to strip people from their tilt-a-whirls and scones for their intended purpose at the fair. I’ve seen Built To Spill a few times and tonight they were at their jam bandiest. They only played a total of 6 songs in the hour-ish that they played, with a myriad of riffs and solos extending the songs out.

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KEXP Presents: Reykjavik Calling in the Gathering Space 10/14

The Pacific Northwest and the mid-Atlantic will converge again on Saturday, October 14th at Reykjavik Calling, presented by KEXP. As the musical leg of the Taste of Iceland festival — which celebrates its 10th anniversary this week — Reykjavik Calling pulls together some of the most exciting musical acts from Seattle and Iceland. As one of Seattle’s best cross-cultural festivals, this free event is not to be missed, so RSVP today. Doors open at 6 PM, and the show, which will be held in the KEXP Gathering Space, starts at 7 PM.

Reykjavik-based Fufanu are known for their thrillingly fresh synthesis of new wave, Krautrock, and post-punk. KEXP’s own Cheryl Waters called them one of the best bands she’s ever seen live, and Pitchfork wrote that their excellent 2017 record, Sports, “celebrates the little moments of homecoming, of reunion, of pleasant daily life.” Read: bring your dancing shoes.
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Song of the Day: Versing – Body Chamber

photo by Conner Lyons

Every Monday through Friday, we deliver a different song as part of our Song of the day podcast subscription. This podcast features exclusive KEXP in-studio performances, unreleased songs, and recordings from independent artists that our DJs think you should hear. Today’s song, featured on The Afternoon Show with Kevin Cole, is “Body Chamber” by Seattle band Versing from the 2017 album Nirvana, out now on Help Yourself Records.

Versing – Body Chamber (MP3) Read More »

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