Every so often the concertgoer is rewarded for arriving early with a find. For me, over the years, these have included Three Days Grace, Guster, The Push Stars, Ed Sheeran, and recently, Walk the Moon. When Walk the Moon opened for Kaiser Chiefs in Vancouver earlier this year, they distinguished themselves by being “the opening band I actually liked”. Now it’s 6 months on, I’ve heard both Anna Sun and Tightrope on Vancouver and Victoria radio (thank you, The Peak and The Zone), I wanted to see how they’d grown and if Vancouver would follow them to a headline show.
But first, we got to know Family of the Year a bit: they’re based in Los Angeles, the lead singer and the drummer are brothers, the latter even attended UVic for a year (then he dropped out to join a band), this was the last night of their tour together with Walk the Moon, and they all sing and play instruments: lead guitar (electric and acoustic), rhythm guitar, drums, piano keyboard, and bass. They were all lined up in a row parallel to the front of the stage (partially because WtM’s gear was upstage), but they’re all so very animated in their performance, I hope they never put the drummer Sebastian in the back – the fun he has playing, and the others too, is infectious. Stylistically, they are modern, roots rock-influenced melodies with a tinge of pop (or, as iTunes tells me “Indie Rock”). They were grateful to the 100ish people who came out early (you’re very welcome, by the way). I quite liked them; they were toe-tapping, body-moving, head-nodding cool. For the 5th song they played, Walk the Moon came on stage halfway through and finished it with them. For Hero (the only one of their songs I’d heard on the radio before), I saw a few people two-stepping, which was kind of cute. There was great audience participation for Stupidland as the drummer moved up to share a microphone with his brother playing two tambourines which he then handed to audience members so he could jump back behind the kit when the time came. By the time Family of the Year were done (they played 10 songs for their 45-minute set) another 200 or so people had arrived, many of them painted, and even the balcony had started to fill.
The CD they were promoting, Loma Vista, which I bought, doesn’t do them justice. Comparing the recording to the live performance, I’d say if you’re expecting the borderline folksy band you hear on the recording, you’re not going to get it, not even if you turn it up real loud. They have a great energy live, singing and playing their collective hearts out, and it fleshes the songs out to give them much more body.
Setlist included Buried, The Stairs, Diversity, St Croix, Hero, Stupidland, Living on Love, In the End.
Here’s what I know about Walk the Moon: they’re a four-piece and from Cincinnati, Ohio. Also, it’d been 6 months to the day since I saw them perform for the first time. They mentioned playing across the street when they were here with Kaiser Chiefs. Since then, they’ve toured Europe opening for Fun. (when they wrote Young Shoes) and their songs have achieved some radio exposure. The very first thing I noticed that was different is their level of confidence. Although far from home, immensely grateful, and just a little overwhelmed at times at the positive audience response, this was a headline gig in support of their self-titled CD and they “brought it”. If this is how much energy they have for the final show of a tour, then up until now, it must’ve been “off the hook”.
The other thing I noticed, and it probably goes hand in hand with confidence, is that audience participation is assumed. They just do something – clapping, hands in the hair, arms over your hard swinging side to side, singing back (not solo, we’re not there yet) – the audience was there for Walk the Moon. Literally. They have such energetic performance styles and upbeat songs that are pop, with great hooks and super fun syncopation. The lead singer Nicholas is multi-tasker as keyboardist and 2nd drummer.
Stand-outs were Jenny, almost a ‘ska meets disco’ number’ that the audience quickly learned some of the words to I’m not going to take it from you, I’ll let you give it to me – very kind, in an audience context sort of way. In another stylistic marriage, I liked Shiver Shiver for its ‘70s throwback falsetto with the keyboard punches prevalent in the ‘80s, Iscariot because it shows this band’s harmonising abilities and that they can mellow down a bit and live, it has a more of an R&B feel to it as it begins to build intensity around the middle. I also really enjoyed I could lift a car, most notably because Family of the Year came on stage to ‘return the favour’ of a collabo to bring the show to a really fulfilling close at 10pm.
Setlist: The Liftaway (from I Want I Want), Quesadilla, Last in Line, Shiver Shiver, Blue Dress (from I Want I Want), Tightrope, Lisa Baby, Young Shoes, Iscariot, Fixin’, Jenny, Anna Sun, I could lift a car.
As a “twofer”, Family of the Year and Walk the Moon were a great combination. Aside from the on-stage collaborations, I think they have a genuine admiration and affection for one another – band members from both bands watched their counterparts during their respective sets. From start to finish, occasional feedback notwithstanding, this was a great show. If Walk the Moon keep doing what they’re doing, next stop, who knows? Maybe they’ll headline the Commodore or a larger venue next time they’re here. When I enquired about the house count, security assured me the capacity of The Venue is 350 and there were certainly no fewer people there – mostly people in their 20s, but some looked like they’d seen 30. Whenever they return, I plan to do the same. Until then, my newly purchased Walk the Moon CD is going to be spending some time in the car’s CD changer.