I can think of fewer better ways to spend a Sunday afternoon than with The Districts.
I’m not sure that there’s anything more fulfilling than seeing a band in the height of your moment with them. I’ve possibly never loved The Districts more than these past two weeks or so with the build up and the aftermath of the release of their third album, Popular Manipulations.
But, I have loved them a lot in the past, too. In fact, they sit prettily near the top of my (ever-growing, much to the dismay of my wallet) list of artists I feel I will never stop going to see.
I’ve enjoyed watching The Districts evolve since I first saw them in 2014. They’re one of the few bands I feel I can forgive for straying so drastically from the sound that made me fall in love with them (in this case, the sound of their self-titled EP and their first album, Telephone), because what they have evolved into is so damn good. There’s a certain darkness or maybe malcontent surrounding both the second and third albums that I feel can only come with age. They’re still pretty young, but I’m constantly blown away by the unbelievably wise way that Rob Grote looks at and transcribes the world, his experiences, wherever he writes from.
I heard most of Popular Manipulations for the first time in my county court house while I was stuck in a room serving jury duty. That’s one of the stranger locations in which I’ve heard an album for the first time, but in some way I’m really fond of the memory – i’d had nothing to do and very little to look at in that room. This allowed me to fully listen. I restarted and then finished the album later the next day on a train from upstate NY back to NYC. I had a lot more to look at, but I couldn’t see a lot of it through the TEARS. This album is everything!
I was so excited to hear some of these songs live for the first time today. I feel like The Districts’ energy becomes more and more infectious each time I see them, and this time I was particularly transfixed by their movements onstage. In fact, I spent most of this set thinking about how I couldn’t wait to get home and play them super loud over my speakers and move in a way I wasn’t willing to in a small crowd. I totally was not expecting to hear “Point,” which was a standout track on the album for me (particularly for the lines “for every game of cat and mouse, one gets fed and one gets beaten”), and it totally went off. The sound of “Salt” was just as huge as it is on the album, and “If Before I Wake” really got to me.
This half set focused entirely on the new album (within good reason) and 2015’s A Flourish and a Spoil. Admittedly, I missed some of the songs from the self-titled EP and Telephone. I am so very excited to see The Districts again this week for a full show at the Bowery Ballroom, but I confess I am nervous to see which of my old loves won’t make the cut; I know we’re at the point where some songs have got to be retired, but letting go is never easy.
I remember how much “Why Would I Wanna Be” stood out to me the first time I heard it in that court house. It felt epiphanic, and I can tell this is a song that I’m going to mull over for quite a while. It was as haunting live as it is on the recording, and I daresay even more honest and heartwrenching. See for yourself: