By CAMERON POLLACK
I awaited The District’s arrival in Ithaca with anticipation for quite some time. I’ve found that after staying on campus for a long enough stretch, you start to miss pieces of home quite a lot. As a Philly resident and music lover, The Districts is one important piece of home. Thus I was delighted that, while all of Philly (plus over one million more) got to witness Pope Francis on Saturday, I got to go to The Haunt and rock out for the sixth time with my favorite Philly band.
Baltimore-based rockers Sun Club opened, performing in promotion of their upcoming record The Dongo Durango. I hadn’t listened to a huge bulk of Sun Club’s tracks going in (I was predominantly there for The Districts), but I was more than pleasantly surprised. This band is nothing short of a force of nature; while the band’s actual levels were less than perfect, their sound was tight across the board, between both drummers, as well as the guitar players/frontmen. Their tightness of sound was fantastic, and couple it with Sun Club’s truly incomparable stage presence complete with shouting, dancing and percussive breakdowns, and you’ve got yourself a memorable act. The group played several cuts from their upcoming LP (for which they had cassette tapes, and nothing else, on sale at the merch table), including “Worm City” and “Tropicoller Lease,” both of which demonstrated the group’s ability to be rhythmically complex, almost like a math rock group, but also to be undeniably danceable. Ultimately, Sun Club is certainly a recommended listen, and seeing them live is an absolute must. Just be absolutely sure to bring earplugs; my ears are still ringing.
After a miraculously short break for set change, Lititz/Philly legends The Districts took the stage at last, in support of their February sophomore record entitled A Flourish And A Spoil. There’s a reason I had seen these guys five times prior to this night; their live experience is truly like none I have ever witnessed. I’ve seen this band at venues varying from 50 people to 5,000, and every single time, they’ve left it all out on the stage.
This past Saturday was by no means an exception. If anything, frontman Rob Grote was more charged and energetic, more anxious and desperate in his singing and more aggressive in his soloing than I have ever seen him. Right from “Chlorine,” the opening, song and a personal favorite of mine, he gave it everything; dancing all over the stage and quite literally throwing his body into every single crashing downbeat. Like so many of the songs Grote writes, “Chlorine” deals with the heavy, seemingly omnipresent feelings coming from loss, and desperation to feel something else, something better. “Rocking Chair” was another highlight of the set, featuring a familiar but equally pleasurable guitar solo from Grote, in a song that in its three and a half minutes does not ease up an inch. “Long Distance,” off their first album Telephone, featured Rob Grote at his absolute best, throwing himself across the stage during instrumental breaks and guitar solos, working with the crowd alongside guitarist Pat Cassidy and then wrapping up the song using only his vocals (leaving the guitar work to Cassidy), dancing like a madman and dropping like a log into the floor of the stage toward the end of the song.
At the end of the day, what makes a Districts show so memorable, and so essential to see if you’re a fan a live music, is how much the stage antics, the sheer delivery of the songs, are an incarnation of the emotions that went into making them. Grote, in every song he writes, leaves it all there on the paper; it only makes sense that he puts every ounce of his energy into every performance he gives.