What are the chances you find a better 1-2 indie-rock combo at a place that holds 500? Unless you were thinking, hoping for the minute chance that Fleet Foxes and The Walkmen will stop by The Independent on their next tour I would save the time and stop guessing. On Wednesday night, Sharon Van Etten and The War on Drugs, both bands that could easily sell out The Independent on their own, teamed up as co-headliners to wallop the crowd with equal parts serenade and driving, thumping rock. Three hours of precise, well-structured (and loud) songs performed by two extremely talented bands. I was a very very happy little boy, as they tend to say.
The War on Drugs came up first, relatively early at 8:30. Normally, I would have been upset that I missed the first song, but I couldn’t help get giddy at the thought that both bands were planning 1+ hour sets. The band came out swinging, playing “Baby Missiles,” their first single off their most recent album Slave Ambient, well before the entirety of the line at the door was fully inside. That set the tone for the rest of their set. As The War on Drugs are known to do, steadily churning through their set, mixing in driving, forceful songs (from both LPs and their EP) with elongated ethereal interludes. A stoner’s dream. Hell, an indie music fan’s dream. Please come back, the hour-plus wasn’t nearly enough.
After The War on Drugs left the place shaking (and bobbing), Sharon Van Etten walked slowly out onstage to play her opening song (without her band) armed solely with an acoustic guitar and that sweet, gravelly voice of hers. The change of place couldn’t have fit better and felt more natural. After the solo song, the rest of her (very talented) band joined her as they took us through most of the hits (“Serpents” among many others) from her newest LP, Tramp, while sprinkling in her best from earlier albums, Epic and Because I Was In Love. And, I can’t stress enough how comforted I was by the fact that the band, loud and tight as a drum kit, added an entirely new element to Van Etten’s recorded songs. If Van Etten’s voice and lyrics constitute the body blows, the band is the knockout roundhouse. Almost more comforting though, was Van Etten’s banter with the crowd. There was no pretentiousness (same goes for The War on Drugs) as she conversed with any fan who was willing to yell out to her. This might seem a distraction, but it wasn’t. The delight she took from the abbreviated conversations helped lower the stage, making it feel like you were watching a friend play, proud that they’re more than holding their own in a venue as great as The Independent.
Download Mp3 – The War on Drugs – Baby Missiles[audio:http://www.sfcritic.com/wp-content/uploads/10-Baby-Missiles.mp3|titles=The War on Drugs – Baby Missiles]
Download Mp3 – Sharon Van Etten – A Crime[audio:http://www.sfcritic.com/wp-content/uploads/01-A-Crime.mp3|titles=Sharon Van Etten – A Crime]