Walk The Moon

support Colony House
author HES date 06/03/16 venue Pumpehuset, Copenhagen, DEN

Walk The Moon recently exploded, projected into stardom from indie obscurity within a few months. Having followed the band since their Tightrope EP, I fondly remember the boys from back when they were touring with fun. in 2012, and the band later returning to a sold out Lille Vega. Their latest album "Talking Is Hard" provided a long overdue ray of sunshine, about this time of year in 2015. The band, however, has swayed from their original low-brow indie to ambitious 80’s rock, changing tempo and amount of synths. Some might call that a sell-out, but it’s pretty obvious that it does indeed sell: Tonight Pumpehuset’s big room is packed with teenagers in colorful makeup, parents keeping an eye from the back, young families with young kids and lastly, indie fans with a soft spot for the decade of neon colors and sweatpants.

All photos by Nikola Majkic. View more here

Colony House

God knows that there are enough indie bands out there with a penchant for euphony, but with very little interest in a competitive edge, let alone edges at all. Upon my initial research, I found Colony House a euphonious band, but nothing out of the ordinary apart from a song or two, that manage to deliver a hook strong enough to linger a little. However, Colony House is a very different story tonight and perhaps just live in general: Whereas the sound of their album “When I Was Younger” is very edgeless, their live performance is anything but. It’s hard to say whether or not the sound is deliberately more grungy on purpose or just the whim of tonight’s sound architect, but I choose to believe in the first option.

Colony House

The opener “I Cannot Do This Alone” has an impressive grandiose feel and the instruments get to sound very much like instruments - absent of disparate pedals. Next song caught my eye on the album as well: “Second Guessing Games” has some of the same qualities as I found on Walk The Moon’s “Tightrope EP”, in particular some high-pitched, Irish folk-inspired guitar riffs that also wake up the audience. Vocalist Caleb Stevenson Chapman is later left on the stage by his band to perform the ballad “Moving Forward” - but in a surprise move, the band returns for the last chorus in an impressing yelling-style version. And in spite of a little feed on the mic here and there, the show the band delivers is way above what is to be expected from a relatively anonymous indie band, just warming up for another indie band with one radio hit. On the third to last track of the only 28 minutes long set is “Waiting For My Time To Come”, revealing the band’s Nashville-roots combined with a folksy “oh, oh, oh”-chorus. Most surprisingly, however, is the closing track “2:20” that brings us back to the blues rock roots of Tennessee, sporting extra distortion and attitude.

Colony House

Overall Colony House leaves me extremely impressed, but also a little confused: Why does a band record such a cookie cutter, borderline-cheesy album as “When I Was Younger”, when their strength is obviously in a way more energetic place, a place where the instruments sound like rock instruments and the vocals have attitude? It still doesn’t change that tonight is very convincing, - regardless of how the album sounds. Good for these guys. Please remember this next time you visit the studio!

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Walk the Moon

Now first off I want to point out, that there is a definite difference between entertainment and music. One can include the other, and in a live situation preferably they do combine. But if there’s one thing I am allergic to, it is when one is sacrificed for the other. In the case of Walk The Moon’s live performance tonight, there is no doubt that people are entertained, but the question is if it is because of the music or in spite of the music.

Vocalist Nicholas Petricca and the rest of the band enter the stage, Petricca sporting his usual make-up - the rest of the band opting out for this show. To the tune of “The Lion King” track “Circle of Life” he shadow boxes to the rhythms as the band ventures into “Jenny” off the band’s self-titled album from 2012. The crowd dances along and it’s obvious that Petricca’s showmanship is doing its magic on the extremely disparate crowd. However, to me, having seen the band three times now, it begins to come off mechanical and studied. It does not help that the next three songs from the 2015-album “Talking Is Hard” are sped up in tempo, “Sidekick” sporting an 8bit bridge, “Avalanche” in such a hurried form that Pettricca does not have air for the falsetto part of the chorus, and “Different Colors” that suffers from the same amputated vocal range.

Colony House

It becomes very clear that the band has had a lot of creative thoughts in designing this show, but in every case where they have had the option to add something extra to a track, they have decided on “yes”. I understand that this has a great effect on the audience that hardly know most of the songs, but as someone that was actually pretty excited about the “old” sound, the tracks mostly seem over exaggerated and ornate. For an example, the beautiful riff of “Tightrope” is completely ruined by an effect on Eli Maiman’s guitar that makes it sound like a mix between a light saber and R2D2-monologue instead of the beautiful folksy Irish-inspired original. The same thing happens in both “Down In The Dumps” and “Spend Your $$$”, where the guitar has absolutely no base sound, only “pew pew” overtones, completely breaking the soundscape in two between Petriccia’s synths, including the space-guitar and Kevin Ray’s bass, steadily trying to hold the whole thing together musically.

There is however still no questioning whether or not the audience is having fun: And they are. Pettricia changes between a stand-alone drum, a double synth keyboard and energetic dancing. All three serve as great interaction tools for the audience, but the heavy use means that a lot of the songs are unnecessarily drowned in synths - seemingly only because it makes for good showmanship. At least, in my ears it does nothing good for the songs that originally didn’t have this many synths. The guitar-solos are equally amped up with weird effects and one starts to wonder: Does this band even believe in their original material. And I look around the room: Would these fans even appreciate the original material. After having thought these thoughts it is almost impossible to step out of this twilight zone where I have become an observer, rather than a participant.

Colony House

Petricca’s vocal performance improves as the band has stressed through the first six songs, “Up 2 U” proves a great little rock get-up, for once not disturbed by too many “creative ideas” and with Maiman’s guitar actually sounding like a guitar, “Work This Body” creates a Caribbean dance off and “Portugal” is just a great song. Having spent so much effort on stressing through the first part of the set, it seems mind boggling that the band then decides to spend a lot of time on slowing down for the 80’s ballad "Aquaman", that honestly is the worst song Walk The Moon has ever written. “Lisa Baby” and “I Can Lift A Car” are happy reunions and I am finally reminded of why I even liked Walk The Moon in the first place. This is followed by the monster-mega-over-the-top dance-hit “Shut Up And Dance” which leads to an infectious dance party. The band then leaves for the obligatory “we’ll do an encore, but we’ll make you scream a little” to return for an encore, Pettrica stating “I don’t even know what to play” - even though a quick look at setlist.fm earlier this afternoon revealed that the band always do the same three encore songs.

The band rounds off the show with that same sequence. Unfortunately, the crowd does not appreciate the old-timers “Next In Line” and “Iscariot”, which is exemplified when Petricca asks “how many have never been to a Walk The Moon show before” and the whole of Pumpehuset raise their hands. There is a clear gap between the audience and the older songs, especially “Iscariot”, a beautiful ballad which the audience speaks through most of. It genuinely feels like I am in a reverse universe: Every time the audience is engaged I feel like the band is being extremely phony, and every time I feel a spark of authenticity, the attention of the rest of the audience lags. As the band round off the whole thing with “Anna Sun” I feel extremely ambivalent, again leading me back to the discussion of “entertainment” and “music”. There is no doubt that the audience tonight was entertained, but that happened in spite of the music really. It seemed as if no one really cared about it either, the band just unloading the effects of a thousand tracks in one show and the crowd just wanting a cool dance party. I understand if many that come out of tonight’s show will feel very differently than me, having had a great experience - but I just can’t shake the impression of a band with no self-esteem and way too many effects to hide behind.

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