Headlights may be the hardest working band in indie rock out there. Four albums deep, theyre still playing small hole in the wall venues. Last night at DC9 was no exception, except this time something magical happened. The last time they were in town it was a few blocks away as an opener. They seemed much more timid, mostly keeping to themselves and their short 30 minute set. This time around, they were the headliners, bringing with them an army of infectious pop rock, or as guitarist Tristan Wraight slurred, A great Sunday ruckus.
After a tumultuous past year, Headlights have been whittled down to a four piece, but that hasnt slowed them one bit. With the unmissable Wildlife just released, the band has a whole new energy about them, one that turned the small upstairs bar into more of a house party than just another show. Shots were kicked back, and friends in the audience got shout outs, all while playing a set heavy on the last two records with a few surprises thrown in from 2006s Kill Them With Kindness.
Kicking things off with Telephone, the lyrics were perfect for the band to sing on tour (I wish I wasnt so far from home). Once the kinks were worked out, they rolled right into the crisp and stunning Secrets. The new tracks rolled easily, and were a great way to start the night. The big surprise came with the throw back to last years Some Racing Some Stopping with Market Girl. It wasnt so much that it was played, but more how it was played. A new introduction has been worked in, tearing into a much bigger version of its old self. When Cherry Tulips was struck two songs later, the same thing happened, and just a year after they had been released, those tracks had gained a whole new dimension.
Erin Fein seems to be getting more adorable every time I see her. As the night wore on and the booze kicked in, her hair flew about wildly as she yelled out in excitement during a songs big finish as on TV. Nick Sanborn (bass) was more manic in his moves, and the energy was blasting through the squat exposed ceiling.
The nights openers teased the band during song breaks as they tuned or waited for Wraight to finish his drink. There didnt seem to be any expectations, even when Pomegranates’ Isaac Karns helped out with percussion, and because this the band was at their playful best. Songs like School Boys and So Much for the Afternoon sounded alive and genuine because of it, and only solidified that this band has yet to do wrong in a live setting. Even the new tracks, barley off the shelf, fit in perfectly with the rest of the set.
After an all too short set, the band was beckoned back on stage for one more, and since they were feeling frisky, they gave the small audience two more cuts from Kindness. Sanborn broke out the accordion for the final number, another older track Owl Eyes, that served the perfect finish. Once over the band left a sweaty mess with giant smiles, and for the rest of us, the feeling was mutual.
Photography courtesy of Priscilla Raba.