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A.V. Fest/Hideout Block Party 2014: From Worst to Best

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The War on Drugs


Photo by Amanda Koellner

I’m glad Adam Granduciel opted for “Brothers” over “Buenos Aires Beach” as their encore. They didn’t have to even come back to the stage, and probably shouldn’t have since it was minutes after the festival’s curfew, but they did anyways. Even better, they opted for the song’s more meditative rendition off 2010’s Future Weather EP, which may have been a subtle nod to their A.V. Club interview with Aaron Dessner that was published three years ago. “It feels like your music is more organic on record than our music,” Dessner then told Granduciel. That’s true, and I’d argue that applies on stage, too.

For a little over an hour, The War on Drugs turned everyone’s festival pass into a blockbuster ticket. They rolled out all of Lost in the Dream, sans the instrumental “The Haunting Idle” (someday, Mike), and squeezed in a rare gem like “Comin’ Through”. The setlist and the performance itself were excellent and what everyone hoped to hear, which is why the Philadelphia rockers are (likely) the happiest band touring this year. People want to hear their new album. They’re intrigued by the sound and with good reason. In a wasteland of agreeable LPs, Lost in the Dream reigns supreme, offering layers of musically astute emotion.

the war on drugs steven arroyo 1 A.V. Fest/Hideout Block Party 2014: From Worst to Best

Photo by Steven Arroyo

Onstage, those feelings grow and grow and grow. From Granduciel’s yelps, to the caked-in saxophone, to the way every member creates something magnificent without ever looking like they’re creating something magnificent. It’s an organic attitude that comes off so casual, leading any passersby to think, That’s a fucking rock band, alright. Before “In Reverse” set off, Granduciel paused, fiddled with his guitar, added a “Thanks everybody,” and escaped into whatever world he goes to when he’s moving his nimble fingers around that fret of his. That tranquility is so palpable.

Not to be a total starfucker, but I caught an insanely private show of theirs at the Chicago Music Exchange the night before. It was the greatest experience I’ve had in a live setting all year, and perhaps one of the best in my short life, but I’ll be the first to admit that intimacy isn’t really needed with a group like this. They wire everything you need in their music, if only because their music is just as flesh and blood as its makers. “Ooh what am I feelin’,” Granduciel sang at the end. The thousands that sang along probably didn’t have an answer for him. He probably doesn’t, either — and maybe that’s for the best. –Michael Roffman

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