“I’m not going to stand here and tell you when it’s midnight,” Adam Granduciel told the New Year’s Eve crowd at Johnny Brenda’s. “You can work that out amongst yourselves.”
If he was attempting to play coy – like this was just another rock and roll show, rather than one of the biggest nights of the year with one of the biggest bands in Philly – Granduciel’s true excitement to be ringing in 2013 with The War on Drugs showed through in other ways. He handed out streamers to the capacity crowd before the set. He had a posterboard of multi-colored Jello shots spelling out the band’s name waiting in the wings (Key contributor Nikki Volpicelli posted a photo of this on her Philadelphia Area Music Showcase blog). And he timed the set perfectly, so the krautrock rhythms of “Your Love Is Calling My Name” raced nearly to midnight, then dipped into the genteel space jam “The Animator” while the clock (somewhere) struck 12. As streamers popped open, confetti flew and champagne was poured, the band closed the trilogy with an outstanding, moving rendition of “Come To The City,” the centerpiece of their 2011 album Slave Ambient. But the show was just getting going.
Kicking off with an inspired cover of The Waterboys’ “A Pagan Place,” Granduciel and his bandmates were energized. New drummer Patrick Berkery fit tightly in the ensemble, and kept a solid grounding to their exploratory jamming. On stage left, Charlie Hall rocked out vigorously on second guitar. Robbie Bennett happily plugged away beneath a towering assortment of keyboards at stage right. And bassist Dave Hartley was focused and Zen-like at the center, riding the groove and breaking out his trumpet for added ethereal effect.
Paul Vile – brother to War on Drugs founding member Kurt – joined the band to play harmonica on a rousing “Arms Like Bouders” from 2008’s Wagonwheel Blues. Later, band buddy Jeff White of Arctic Splash and Creepoid joined them for acoustic guitar on “Brothers.” The Future Weather EP was visited with a yearning “Coming Thru,” and the band closed the out with Wagonwheel‘s “A Needle In Your Eye #16” – but not before tearing up “The Ties that Bind” by Bruce Springsteen. (Here’s a video of them performing it the night before – the night they played it twice. It sounded just as great the third time around.)
Purling Hiss performed just before The War On Drugs, their grungy power-trio rock building up the energy in the room. Guitarist Mike Polizze and bassist Keil Everett played charismatically off one another, while drummer Mike Sneeringer goaded them on. The set mixed up ragers from their forthcoming LP Water on Mars – trust us, you’re psyched to hear this record – and wapped up on the dense and rousing “Almost Washed My Hair.”
Opening the show was Avery Rosewater, a new four-piece fronted by Julien Rossow-Greenberg of Arches. The band’s catchy, dreamy psych-pop carried hints of New York trendsetters DIIV, except with less fog and more beat. Those that turned up early for them got a treat – if you didn’t catch them, hear what you missed in this free download.
The War on Drugs setlist
A Pagan Place (Waterboys cover)
Arms Like Boulders
I Was There
Your Love Is Calling My Name
Come to the City
Black Water Falls
The Ties that Bind (Bruce Springsteen cover)
A Needle In Your Eye #16
Purling Hiss setlist
Run from the City
Don’t Even Try It
Almost Washed My Hair
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