Two years on from their Rough Trade Album of the Month, “A Flourish and A Spoil”, the Districts are back. And aren’t they just?
The young band from Philadelphia have kept their heads down as far as the UK are concerned. As for me, I’ve continued to enjoy the LP. It has grit that is missing from much of the similarly youthful guitar bands from this country. The melodies are there, but you have to work with them. There are shifts in tempo and dynamics. In a live environment, it makes for an exciting mix as they showed at the Scala when the last album was released.
Setlist.fm shows that they’ve been gigging consistently in the USA in the interim. Last time around, they were lacking a little finesse but weren’t lacking in brio. I was looking forward to seeing if a little more roadcraft had informed their performance.
The current UK tour is in support of their latest single, “Ordinary Day”.
Staying with the Fat Possum label, it is a precursor to their third album, to be released later in 2017. It is more of the same, but in a good way, and heard out of context of the new LP, it doesn’t give a huge clue as to there being anything different around the corner.
Things got a lot clearer at the Dome. The band were greeted by a packed venue, 24 hours after the attack on the Ariana Grande concert in Manchester. There was a palpable sense of communion and wanting to defiantly enjoy the moment and the band skillfully road the wave of this. “Chlorine” and “4th and Roebling” were both delivered early, the latter cruising on a pulsing bass line straight from “Radar Love”. The set was interspersed with new material, all well received and more direct and melodic than the older songs. There was a greater focus on vocal harmonies which was welcome. Their penchant for extensive guitar retuning between songs remains, but it is less distracting now.
Again, as per the last time I saw them, the nine minute “Young Blood” was the centre piece. It encapsulates everything that is exciting about the band – the dramatic changes in tone, the shifting rhythms, the rise and fall and rise again of the feverish pitch.
This is a special band. Whether that translates into wider success remains to be seen. I can absolutely see that a career trajectory that draws on a more melodic approach similar to the Kings of Leon and the Killers, if the band let the marketeers lose on them. I detect that they don’t want that to happen though and this will be a old fashioned slow build of an increasing fan base. The band are largely ungroomed and not chasing the “hipster on a unicycle clutching a smashed avocado on sourdough rye toast” audience. In fact last night they gave a shout out to the British supermarket institution Marks and Spencers, commenting that they were blown away by the prospect of “getting good food in gas stations”.
This looks like it will work, given the evident passion that existed in the audience for the music. Lyrics were sung back at the band with gusto and the audience ebbed and flowed with the twists and turns of the material. I was standing just back from the moshing area and it was thrilling to see (and here I am going to sound very very old) young people throwing themselves into the experience, both physically and emotionally.
Catch them this year as I think they will be moving upwards and onwards.
The new album will be out in August, is titled “Popular Manipulations” and is available via their Bandcamp page.
A couple more thoughts on the evening:
- I only caught the second support band, CYMBALS. A live four piece, they are about to release their second LP, a follow up to 2014’s “The Age Of Fracture”. The band have a welcoming sound, influenced by classic 80s New Order and the Associates, which is fine by me. They are well worth a listen based on last night’s gig.
- I had only been to the venue once before, to see the wonderful Everlasting Yeah in 2014. In short, it is on my doorstep practically and I need to go more often. It is air conditioned, has good sightlines and sound and a well stocked bar. The Dome in Tufnell Park is a proper old school venue.