THE DISTRICTS BLOW AWAY BROOKLYN!
The very young and upwardly mobile alt rock outfit, THE DISTRICTS, played a show on Thursday night at the new Williamsburg venue, BABY’S ALL RIGHT, to celebrate this week’s release of their self-titled EP on FAT POSSUM RECORDS. This quartet of recent high school graduates hails from Lititz, Pennsylvania, deep in the heart of Lancaster’s Amish country, and they are beginning to making a lot of noise on the scene on a national level. I caught them accidentally on the penultimate show of 2013 at Brooklyn Bowl when they opened for label mates, THE FELICE BROTHERS, and I found myself immediately engaged by the band’s raw energy and staccato explosiveness. Apparently, so did most of the sold out crowd, as evidenced by a rare period of attentiveness from an audience for an opening band they didn’t come to see and probably never heard before.
With none of the four band members presumably even old enough to order a drink at the venue, THE DISTRICTS are poised for much success ahead. Oxford, Mississippi based indie label, FAT POSSUM RECORDS, which signed THE DISTRICTS in November, has been a springboard label for many emerging artists turned industry superstars, most notably THE BLACK KEYS, who released three albums with the label, beginning with their sophomore release, “Thickfreakness,” which arguably identified the band’s sound for the masses. FAT POSSUM has also been home to many established artists, such as BAND OF HORSES, ANDREW BIRD, and SPIRITUALIZED, as well as newer bands on the rise like CAVEMAN, HEARTLESS BASTARDS and YOUTH LAGOON.
THE DISTRICTS appeal to me in the same way that I enjoy the recordings of bands like COLD WAR KIDS and DELTA SPIRIT. These are all bands that feature a certain brand of strangled male lead vocals that evoke a sense of desperation and loss of control, which I happen to find particularly appealing and inspiring in today’s indie rock sound. It’s like the sound of someone who is singing while on the verge of jumping off a cliff. While Nathan Willett of Cold War Kids and Delta Spirit’s Matt Vasquez both consistently pull this off in the studio, particularly on their earlier releases, neither band brings the energy and passion to their live performances to the extent that this young band seems to have already demonstrated. Lead vocalist/guitarist, ROB GROTE, appears almost to be in a trance while performing, channeling lyrical phrases from the deepest part of his inner soul as the band routinely fluctuates from quiet and melodic to loud and frenetic within the course of a single song.
The EP takes remastered versions of the three strongest tracks from the band’s self-released 2012 debut album, “Telephone,” and bookends them with two new songs, “Rocking Chair,” a rollicking ode to the (childhood?) days gone by and “Stay Open,” which maintains the band’s signature style while somehow echoing the influence of QUEEN. The three remastered songs, “Lyla,” “Long Distance,” and “Funeral Beds,” however, will be the radio hit singles that catapult this band into the mainstream.
THE DISTRICTS have a full length album in the works, and they are set to tour in support of Austin, TX pop rock outfit, WHITE DENIM, including a return to NYC with a show at WEBSTER HALL on February 28th. They are already booked for early slots in great company in May at both the BOSTON CALLING FESTIVAL and THE SHAKY KNEES FESTIVAL in Atlanta, where you can see them alongside Cold War Kids and draw your own conclusions. Grote and his bandmates have moved from Amish country to a house in Philadelphia that they share. It’s a small move for a young band, but from the looks of things, it is just a stop on the road to the rest of the world.