Northside 2014: The War on Drugs

posted by Dan Murphy on June 18, 2014

The War on Drugs at Northside 2014; All photos by Laura Baker-Finch

Brooklyn, New York -- The stage was already bathed in a purple-lit fog when The War on Drugs took the stage at 50 Kent for their set at Northside Festival. It felt eerily appropriate. The group's new album Lost in the Dream sounds like Tom Petty decided to throw his compass overboard while piloting a ship through a misty sea. The band showcases '80s pop-rock sensibilities before trailing off into spacious guitar solos or ambient interludes as songwriter and lead-singer/guitarist Adam Granduciel tries to get his life together.

After the band opened with "An Ocean Between the Waves," Granduciel humbly said, "Thanks for coming, this is overwhelming," before mentioning it was the first time he had encountered a soundman tasked solely with handling his monitor mix. Even so, he confidently commanded this performance, blazing through lengthy guitar solos and keeping the band on stage for almost an hour and a half (which seemed to upset some festival organizers signaling from the side). In the rhythm section, drummer Charlie Hall and bassist Dave Hartley grooved through the fast tempos, while keyboardist Robbie Bennett filled in the empty sonic spaces with airy strings and piano tones. This live performance managed to reflect the challengingly expansive sound found on the record.

One particularly moving moment came when the band slowed down the performance a bit for "Suffering." Delicate electric piano tones backed-up another airy guitar solo before Granduciel asked, "Will you be here suffering?" The song ended with an ambient section that left the crowd unsure when to applaud, but I was content to drift with the sounds as I didn't really expect these album passages to make it into a live set.

The War on Drugs' music seems to have an ocean-like quality. It ebbs and flows, and at a certain point the listener is content to float in it, to be relaxed while consumed by the fog. At this particular show, they made an hour and a half feel like twenty minutes, a feat to be sought after by any performer. While the lyrics reflect some heavy themes, the music is so inviting that it's easy, almost addictive to get lost in the dream of The War on Drugs. 

For more photos of The War on Drugs and other Northside artists, head to our Facebook Album.

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