"I Have TWO Phasers": The War On Drugs w/Caveman @ The Red Palace - 9/2/11

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First of all, I have to give it up for the NYC band known as Caveman. It’s embarrassing that I’ve never even heard of them, but after witnessing their opening set Friday night, you can be sure that I won’t be forgetting them. Floating around somewhere between Radiohead and the sound of America in the 70’s (think Midlake’s Trials of Van Occupanther, but a little more out there) the band is one of the best you’ll see this year.  Their debut album Coco Rises will be out September 13, so make sure you pick it up. You’ll thank me, promise. More to the point though, when Caveman comes to your town, at all costs GO!

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Caveman turning noobs into fans

Now. Onto The War On Drugs.

Take some Bob Dylan, add a little Tom Petty, then throw in a wall of guitars and not one but TWO phasers, and you’ve pretty much got The War On Drugs at The Red Palace last Friday. But those comparisons may actually be selling the band short

Sure, band leader Adam Ganduciel may have a little of that Dylan twang in his vocals, but he can sing just fine.  And yes, his songs are often exercises in storytelling that explore some of the darker corners of Americana. But while Dylan may have eventually plugged in, he never could have imagined those stories being backed by a virtual army of low slung guitars that recall the heady 70’s of Big Star and Boston more than they do the folk tunes of years gone by.

What The War On Drugs really is, if there has to be a comparison to anything, is arena rock scaled down to the small stage. Unafraid to turn their amps up to 11, the band played as if there were 20,000 people in the room, not 200 and never slowed down for an instant.

Tearing through songs from 2008’s Wagonwheel Blues and their latest release Slave Ambient, the band delivered a fuzzed out, psychedelic twinged set that had even NPR’s Bob Boilen rocking out like he was a teenager. It was a glorious release for both the band and the audience, and one that a lot of bands these days just don’t seem to be able to pull off.

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I’ll be completely honest: I haven’t even really had time to digest much of the bands catalog, so for me this was an entirely visceral show. It was all new, and all fairly mind-blowing. It was the type of show you hunt for. They type of show that you haphazardly throw your devil horns in the air at. The type of show that you’ll remember for a really long time. It was the type of show that you walk out of with a smile on your face because you know you’ve just seen something life affirming and special.

Most importantly it was the type of show that turns people into fans, and I can tell you without a doubt that I now am one. The War On Drugs maybe one of the littlest big bands you ever saw, but with any luck they’re not gonna stay small for long.

200 people or 20,000. The War On Drugs is gonna find a way to rock them all.

The War On Drugs performing @ The Red Palace. Photos by Kevin Hill