The Districts bring Popular Manipulations home to Philly and a wild Union Transfer crowd

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The Districts | photo by Michelle Montgomery for WXPN

“We all almost went to college,” Rob Grote of The Districts told a sold-out Union Transfer on Friday night. “We talked about how this album is like a college degree. Hopefully we learned something, right?”

The band was headlining in support of their third record, Popular Manipulations, which came out on Friday. The record already sounds huge, but performed live it’s even more so, particularly the thundering “Violet” and the quiet-to-scream progression of “Ordinary Day.” The crowd was revved up and spent much of the night off the floor, stage diving and crowd surfing.

The Districts | photo by Michelle Montgomery for WXPN

The show was a Philly indie rock power lineup of sorts; Abi Reimold opened the night, showcasing songs from their 2016 record Wriggling with the aid of a two piece band and a set of looping pedals, expertly manipulated. The set also included a handful of very new selections from Reimold’s songbook, some played with the band and others performed solo, making us pumped to hear their next record when it surfaces.

Abi Reimold | photo by Michelle Montgomery for WXPN

To draw parallels to the indie rock scene of the 90s, if Reimold was the Cat Power of this lineup and The Districts were Built to Spill, The Spirit of the Beehive was its answer to Slowdive. That’s not a perfect comparison, of course — Spirit is much edgier and rooted in punk rock aggression and catharsis than the overwhelmingly gauzy mood of Rachel Goswell, Neil Halstead & co. — but when the lights are low, the tones are clean and Rivka Ravede’s bass glides in lock with Zack Schwartz’s guitar, their voices dazily harmonizing, the feeling carries through. Plus, Built to Spill + Slowdive + Cat Power is a show I would have loved to have seen in 1995.

The Spirit of the Beehive | photo by Michelle Montgomery for WXPN
The Districts | photo by Michelle Montgomery for WXPN

Below, check out a gallery of photos from the show. The Districts perform at WXPN’s Free at Noon concert this Friday, August 18th. RSVP for the show here.

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