Monday, January 22, 2018

Company of Thieves and Walk the Moon

Sometime early in December, Denise asked  me how badly did I want to see U2. She had been thinking of getting U2 tickets as my Christmas present, but when she looked them up, she discovered that U2 was looking for over $200 a ticket. She found this particularly grating because she remembers seeing them for about $10 a ticket at Nassau Community College shortly after their first album came out, when nobody even knew who they were. I've never seen them myself, and while I like them and wouldn't mind seeing them, they're not in my top echelon of favorite bands. And frankly, for $200+ a ticket, Bono can kiss my Irish-American ass. I like their new album somewhat, but let's face it -- U2 is no longer a cutting edge band.

Instead, I told her I'd rather she got me tickets for another show she and I had talked about, Walk the Moon, who was playing at the Mohegan Sun in January. I'd rather see a(n admittedly lesser) band that I like who's still in their prime at a fifth of the price. So that was the show that Denise got me tickets for for Christmas.

At some point later (I think in early January), I was up on the Mohegan Sun's website to see if there was an opening band, and although they didn't specifically list one, I followed a couple of links and learned that they were being joined on this tour by Company of Thieves. I was surprised and very happy to see this. The last I heard, Company of Thieves had broken up. This was unfortunate, as their first album had been in my Top Ten Albums of 2009 list, and their single "Oscar Wilde" was in my Top 20 Songs list for that same year. So now I was particularly psyched for the show.

As it turned out, Saturday was kind of a grueling day physically. We had things to do in the morning, and I didn't get a chance to eat. Denise decided she'd rather spend the bucks than drive all day, so we took a 1:45 Port Jefferson Ferry boat to Connecticut. The plan was to eat when we got to Connecticut, rather than eat the unappetizing ferry food. But of course, when the ferry reached Connecticut it was already 3:15, so we decided to just head to the motel we were staying at in Waterbury. Bottom line, my hope had been to have lunch, then check in and take a nap for an hour or two before we went to show, but the way it worked out, we had to check in, skip the nap and head right over to the Mohegan Sun and eat there.

I was so out of it at that point from lack of sleep and low blood sugar that I was concerned that I was going have one of those shows that I half slept through. It was bad enough that I did that in 2015 at the Squeeze show, but at least most of that crowd was at or near our age. it's even more embarrassing to be the only old guy sleeping at a show surrounded by mostly kids and young adults. As I've mentioned before, aging kind of sucks.

Luckily, we were able to get a quick table at a seafood shack inside the casino, and finally getting some protein in my system brought me back to life a little. As it turned out, we had some extra time after dinner anyway, because showtime was 8PM instead of the 7PM start time we had been told. (Our tickets were "Will Call", so we didn't have physical tickets to look at until we actually got to the Mohegan.) So we hit the floor and gambled for about an hour or before meeting up back at the Arena entrance at 7:30.

The Arena itself was nice. I thought we had seen Duran Duran and Mannheim Steamroller there about 10 years ago, but it turns up my poor brain was all befuddled -- that was at the MGM Grand Arena at Foxwoods. This arena holds a lot of people, but somehow seemed more intimate than you'd expect. There are basically three sections -- the floor section, the first inclined section, and a top section. We were in the first inclined section, to the left of the stage.

The place was about half full when Company of Thieves hit the floor. They were good, but different than I expected. They were very energetic, especially Genevieve Schatz, the lead singer. She was completely different than I expected. I figured the person who wrote the chorus of "Oscar Wilde", which has lyrics about how we are our own devils, and we make this world our hell, would be a cynical, sarcastic kind of gal. Instead, she was the exact opposite. She was much more Glinda the Good Witch than Janeane Garofolo.

As for the crowd, I felt like they were kind of low energy to start the night. They were responsive -- they applauded the band -- but except for "Oscar Wilde", they didn't really seem to get into the show. This might have been partially because the band played several new songs in their relatively short set, but I think it was also because a lot of the young crowd just weren't that familiar with them -- their last release was in 2011, and they announced their breakup in early 2013, a full five years ago.

This was unfortunate, as they're really quite a good band -- Schatz has a very powerful voice, and their songs are sophisticated and kind of interesting. I wish there had been more publicity to tell people Company of Thieves was even on the bill -- I had to literally hunt the info down. These guys do have a fan base, and I think more of their fans would have attended the show if they'd been aware of it. As it was, by the time the arena filled in, it was mostly sold out, but there were about ten empty rows at the top of it all the way around -- maybe fifteen empty rows at the furthest points from the stage. I bet if they'd have publicized this band more, they'd have sold those seats too. Nevertheless, Company of thieves seemed to be really excited and happy to play in front of a big crowd again. They'll be releasing some new music later this year, and I hope it brings them back up to the popularity level they used to be at.

They did mention that had a new EP for sale -- its official release is sometime in February, but there were advance copies available for sale at the show. So in between sets, I headed to the merch stand and bought a copy. I was a little taken aback that they charged $20 for a five-song EP (and only three of them were new studio tracks). The lady at the counter kindly offered that the band was going to be autographing their merch, and pointed to the side of the booth where kids were starting to line up. I thanked her kindly, but my days of standing on lines for band autographs are -- I was going to say "done", but they never really existed in the first place. If I ran into the band somewhere, and I could pull out the EP and ask them to sign it, I would, but I don't really care about autographs enough to ever stand on line for them. As for the price of the CD, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that this is a band that probably isn't making much money right now, so if an extra ten bucks or so can help them keep playing until they reach a higher level, then fine.

Walk the Moon hit the stage around 9:15 or so. And I quickly learned that if the (two-thirds female) crowd had been reserved during Company of Thieves, it  was because they were saving their energy for this band. They were all up and dancing from the get-go, and after every song, there was a chorus of high-pitched voices screaming their heads off.

Walk the Moon was really impressive, even better than I had expected them to be. Having just released their third album, What If Nothing, just a few months ago, they now have three albums worth of quality material to pull from to put together a setlist. They also have a really good light show, although my one complaint about it was that most of the lighting was directly behind them, backlighting them so that half of the night, it was like watching a band of silhouettes. The two large screens on either side of the stage filtered the light out some, so you could see the band better if you looked at them.

But really, this was a minor complaint. Nick Petricca is an amazing and energetic front man. At one point, the band explained that they had performed in Albany on Thursday night, flew to L.A. to play a short set at the iHeartRadio ALTer EGO concert (along with Mumford & Sons, Beck, Cage the Elephant, Spoon, The National and Dashboard Confessional) on Friday night, then flew back to the East Coast for this show on Saturday. But, they explained, a frenzied crowd like this gave them a big shot of adrenaline, and you could tell the band was really into it. It also probably didn't hurt that this (by Petricca's own confession) was the first time ever that Walk the Moon had headlined an arena show of this size. In any event, they played like a group who was happy and excited to be there.

The band played a good chunk of the new album, but also supplemented it throughout the night with many of the best songs from their first two albums, including my favorite Walk the Moon song, "Next in Line". Interestingly, the song that got the biggest crowd response of the night wasn't "Anna Sun" their first big hit from their first self-titled album, or "One Foot", the biggest hit from their new album, but "Shut Up and Dance", from their second album Talking Is Hard. They really tore the roof off the building with that one. The audience seemed to also really enjoy "Different Colors", a song celebrating diversity.

As I told Denise after the concert, I love seeing bands from the 70s and 80s that take me back to a lot of my favorite music. But every so often, I really need to get and out see a quality younger band. I enjoy watching the kids enjoy the music. Anyway, I couldn't have asked for a better concert to start off my 2018.

So thanks for my Christmas present, Sweetie. It was great to get away for a night with you.