text by Jacob Webb and Anna McClain
In 21st century indie rock, “populist” isn’t necessarily a term that a lot of bands would want attached to them, but Thao and The Get Down Stay Down gladly wear it as a badge of honor. On their latest album, We The Common, Thao Nguyen and her bandmates embrace social causes with fervor, wrapping their brand of indie, pop-tinged folk around topical songs that sell their messages with catchy melodies rather than preachy declarations. Even the songs without a direct message touch a nerve, and as Thao and her cumbersome-but-appropriately-named group tour the country, it seems that the movement behind their cause is growing.
Thao, making her comedic debut, asked her huge audience at the KEXP Bumbershoot Music Lounge to laugh as our live broadcast began, making listeners wish they were in on the (nonexistent) joke. The unruffled frontwoman didn’t have to ask for the audience’s approval once the show got underway. The group kicked things off with their hit “Holy Roller,” off their 2013 album We The Common. While her guitar was nearly twice her size, Thao, donning cutoffs, a flannel and cowboy boots, calmly commanded the stage during the live set. The multi-instrumentalist singer had a unique marching/bobbing stomp thing going on that seemed to go along with the beat, and upon second glance it appeared that each movement controlled the range of her voice in the microphone.
While I assumed the quartet’s energy had peaked with “Every Body,” from We The Common, the group didn’t hold back on “Kindness Be Conceived.” Showcasing their drummer’s talents, they once again one-upped themselves with “Age of Ice.” After enthusiastic shouts of “thank you,” from the audience, the band wrapped things up with their newest title track “We the Common (For Valerie Bolden).”