This is sweaty, scuzzy rock and roll forged in basements and garages. The Districts have honed their muscular, crunchy sound on the road, having left the bossum of Lititz, Philadelphia a couple of years ago.
They played the smaller Seebright Arms last year and have graduated to the larger Scala. The gig was sold out weeks ago and it is clear they have generated quite a following in their relatively short life. There is a communal aspect to the show and Robbie Grote (singer and guitarist) has an evident rapport with his mostly young crowd up front and centre. In fact, I find it heartening that whilst there are a few older peeps in attendance, the average age is lower than many a recent gig I’ve been to. They relate to the Districts and is easy to see why. The Districts themselves are still looking forward to celebrating their 21st birthdays.
I wrote about their 2nd album” A Flourish And A Spoil” (A former Rough Trade Album Of The Month) here. The show draws on this but also dipped into singles and EPs.
They are straight out the blocks with “Chlorine” and “Autumn Shower”. The next two songs were unfamiliar to me from earlier EPs but this doesn’t dent their appeal. This marks the first of Robbie’s excursions into the crowd. It is refreshing to see a band engaging with their fans. Quite often, you see young bands in particular lacking in stage presence and confidence who struggle to communicate. This isn’t a problem that the Districts suffer from.
“Silver Couplets” was an early highlight starting as a solo song with the band coming in to add their heft. This is really crunchy stuff. They move through the gears on “Funeral Beds” which starts with a Springsteen-esque harmonica and ends at a right old gallop.
The only affectation which loses momentum is a constant retuning whilst a “Arc Weld”/Sonic Youth scrapings and ambient washes play between the songs. A swift “1-2-3-4!” would add to the excitement, but this is a minor quibble.
They finish with “4th and Roebling”. This sounds like they’ve heard their older brother’s Strokes records and decided “we can do better that that”. The real trick is they succeeded.
After a brief break to catch their breath, Robbie comes back on for a raw solo version of “6AM”. The remainder of the band return and they move straight into “Young Blood”, the highlight of the current album. This is the one with the dynamics and the drama. I turn around and the young couple next to me are waltzing.
“Just need a little romance, I just need a little time, I just need a little young love to ease my mind“
Just when you the song is over, the bass player alone keeps the momentum going and before you know it, there’s chaos around him. It’s kinetic stuff – drum risers are jumped off of, microphone stands felled and that old trick of holding your guitar against the amp and making loud scrapy feedbacky noises.
Fame and fortune is fickle. They certainly bear comparison with the Kings of Leon at a similar stage – the boys haven’t quite got the looks or the back story of the Kings but they’ve got the chops.
They are in Manchester tonight, Glasgow tomorrow and Dublin on 2 May. There is also a Glastonbury shaped hole in their touring schedule. Catch them in a good size venue now as I suspect next time round things will be a little bigger.
- Rocking Chair
- Long Distance
- Silver Couplets
- Heavy Begs
- Suburban Smell
- Funeral Beds
- 4th and Roebling
- Young Blood
This is a radio session has just been added to t’internet and it shows off this cracking young band in a slightly more civilised environment.
They remind a little of Marah, another Philadelphian band who emerged about 10 years ago. Here’s a standout from their most successful album “Kids in Philly”. Must be something in the water in that part of the USA.
Photos from Gigwise