Rock & Roll Hotel is a venue that needs no introduction to those in the DMV. Hosting an eclectic mix of concerts and dance sessions as well as having a more traditional bar for the casual night crawler, it pretty much has something for everyone. On Friday the 27th, it played host to the four piece indie-americana group The Districts.
Shark Week, a local indie rock outfit with a stoner aesthetic got the show started and were by far the more memorable of the two opening acts. Sporting a psychedelic silk button down straight out of the ‘70s with a vest to match, the lead singer managed to keep his small audience engaged, if only because his outfit was so unquestionably rad. Also, their drummer had a broken wrist, but still managed to play the full set without a hitch and threw in some killer fills, which I believe is a literal example of what it means to be “Rock & Roll.”
The second opener was a New Jersey band called Pine Barons. There were two main problems with Pine Barons, none of which were really their fault or relevant to their musical credibility. Nonetheless, they had a negative impact on the show as a whole. First off, they took about twenty minutes in their sound check, and to be cliché, ain’t nobody got time for that. Then to follow that, their set as a whole was just too long. When two bands are slated to open, you don’t expect the second band to play for a full hour, only 15 minutes shorter than the main act. By about halfway through their set, they had lost the crowd and this reviewer through no particular fault of their own. Everyone was ready for The Districts.
So at 11:15 it was finally time for the headliners. The Districts are everything you would expect a relatively unknown indie band with some classic rock influences from suburban PA to be: Four unassuming, slightly goofy, white guys who all wear flannel with two guitars, a bass, and drums. Though they lack the swagger and lyrical ability other indie bands like them (The Strokes, Cage the Elephant, OK GO etc.), they certainly don’t lack energy or talent. Lead singer Rob Grote puts his all into his vocals and not a song goes by without his killing a guitar riff and jumping around on stage. The Districts are a young band, new to touring across the country, and it showed in their set. After nearly every song the band would stop to retune, sometimes taking what seemed like a full songs worth of pause with nothing to fill it. They offered very little in the way of crowd conversation except the simple platitudes of “Thanks for being here” etc. They have a messiness on stage that gives their concert a bit of a house show type feel which adds an element of intimacy. But, they also seem too insistent to add a guitar solo to every song, which gets repetitive over the course of an entire set. A final problem with The Districts set came from the crowd. There are always a few spoilers in the crowd who ruin a good slow song by shouting out non sequiturs or other annoying things, but this crowd seemed completely ready to dismiss any slower song, ignoring some of the great, personal and particularly striking lyrics (at least to a fellow child of the PA exurbs) in songs like “Suburban Smell” and “Bold.” These were all relatively minor annoyances, however. The show definitely had many more high points including literally the entire room jumping to “Funeral Beds,” the bands biggest single. Getting the crowd involved in many of their songs, the best parts of show were by far singing along to the usually angst filled choruses about long distance relationships or feeling your life torn in two different directions. The Districts thrive on that energy and angst, and it makes for a good show. But, the band has some ground to cover, both musically and with their showmanship if they hope to ever be more than a small time indie band with a few good singles.