The War On Drugs at House of Blues, 9/27/2014
Photos by Jason Wolter
The War On Drugs House of Blues September 27, 2014
There was a certain point in time when I thought truly simple and original music was a thing of the past. These days, if you don't have a certain niche or unique twist to your sound, there's a good chance your band will get passed by like most of them.
Gone are the days of the simple, straightforward rock and roll band. Since Alan Freed coined the term in the early 1950s, every decade has seen its own version of the genre come and go, leaving a stamp on its venerable history. But these days, if you say rock and roll music to a kid, he or she might not know what that means.
Of course you have your radio-friendly Buzz-rock songs, but it's just sad to relate that cookie-cutter product to the music once mastered by Zeppelin, Sabbath and the Stones. Now you have to dig much deeper to find even a taste of what was once a noble genre.
Now instead of just rock, you have so many offshoots that you don't even know whether it fits under that umbrella or not. Nu-metal, rapcore, thrash, prog, psych, indie, folk, pop, acid, doom, dance-punk, darkwave and (my personal favorite) gothabilly are just a few of the off-the-wall classifications of what was once just pure rock and roll.
But that was only a given with time. People are always striving to be different, which is quite evident in how many different types of music there are now. But sometimes you don't want different You want something familiar, a reminder of what you've already loved.
And that brings me to The War On Drugs, an indie folk-rock group out of one of America's most underrated music cities, Philadelphia. TWOD isn't doing anything different. They have there own sound, of course, but aren't trying to step too far out of the box. In fact, their music is so recognizable because it's a perfect mashup of some of the best '70s and '80s bands to ever represent the genre.
Their set at House of Blues Saturday night proved that I'm not the only one looking for the familiar, either. With a packed room for the earlier-than-normal stage time, TWOD took the stage without much hoopla and just played their music for an hour and a half, only sharing a few words with the crowd throughout.
But the crowd wasn't looking for banter, or anything other than the brand of pure bliss TWOD delivered to the hungry audience. They don't need gimmicks as a band, and aren't much to look at as far as stage presence, but if the rest of the crowd was like me, their eyes were closed the entire time, soaking in as much as they could.
The band offers a dreamy mix of 80's Dylan and Dire Straits with a dash of Gilmour's Floyd soundscapes plus a great amount of Neil Young if he was never in the mood to play guitar solos. It's soul-soothing and entirely calming. Fuck white noise and sounds from the ocean, give me The War On Drugs.
Story continues on the next page.
And thankfully, the songs sound even better live than on record. The group played many of their older songs throughout the show, but the true highlight was hearing them perform selections from their latest record, Lost In the Dream, including a captivating "In Reverse" and a set-closing version of the title track that stood as the climax of the performance.
A tribute to an obvious influence came with Dylan's "Tangled Up In Blue," served as a fitting ending to one of the better performances to hit a Houston stage as of late. Even if it wasn't necessarily the greatest choice of his songs to tackle, it was jangly and fun and to the untrained ear could've passed for one of their own tunes. Honestly, I bet a good amount of people probably thought it was.
Personal Bias: After catching them a couple years ago at SXSW, TWOD really didn't do it for me. It's sad to me because of how obsessed I am with them now. I could've had two more years to fall in love. At least I have them in my life now.
Overheard In the Crowd: "People don't deserve The War On Drugs."
The Crowd: A lot of people that looked like me.
Random Notebook Dump: Music has become so expensive that fun people can't afford it anymore.
ROCKS OFF'S GREATEST HITS
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene each week with music news, trends, artist interviews and concert listings. We'll also send you special ticket offers and music deals.