Saturday, November 17, 2012

Walk the Moon, Family of the Year concert review: Santa Ana, Calif.

A version of my review originally appeared at

photo by Armando Brown, from Feb. at the Wiltern
When Nicholas Petricca sang “we rattle this town/we rattle this scene” during “Anna Sun” on Thursday night, the hit song’s statement of purpose became a reality.

Over the course of an exhilarating, sold out Observatory show, the wiry frontman and his band Walk the Moon definitely left a positive mark on Santa Ana.

This year, the Cincinnati dance/rock group has toured with Young the Giant, fun. and Kaiser Chiefs, filmed an MTV Unplugged episode and put out a solid self-titled full-length effort through RCA Records (some tracks were reworked from a 2010 indie effort).

But the aforementioned single - named after a college instructor – totally boosted Walk the Moon’s profile. It went top 10 on Billboard’s alternative chart and has been a KROQ/106.7 FM playlist mainstay for quite awhile now (the band will appear at the station’s annual Almost Acoustic Christmas concert at Gibson Amphitheatre on Dec. 8). Meanwhile, an accompanying video received more than a million views.

Before start time, a young guy with various colored pigments dabbed onto a paper plate traversed the club to see if anyone wanted to partake in Walk the Moon’s usual ritualistic face painting. He only seemed to have a few takers, though a smattering of concertgoers already did themselves up. The crowd predominantly ranged from junior high school through college age. 

Taking the stage to loud female shrieks, Walk the Moon opened with a stomping “The Liftaway” as Petricca pounded on a single drum and played keyboards. Fans dutifully pogoed, clapped along and shouted “hey” to the ebullient “Quesadilla” and the big synth sounds.

Continuing with more awkward romantic situation lyrical themes, a giddy “Next in Line” saw Eli Maiman offer some sublime guitar work and three of the musicians sang in falsetto on the jittery gem “Shiver Shiver.”

A few promising unreleased songs in a similar vein were also unveiled. The feisty new wave of “Tete-a-Tete” and Killers-styled “Young Shoes” (Petricca described it as about “a young American figuring things out”) fared best. Some crowd surfing began amid “Tightrope,” where Maiman’s reverb-drenched tones and tribal beats from Sean Waugaman and Petricca made it one of the evening’s highlights.

Later, the joyous, squelching synth-driven “Fixin’” prompted a fan sing along and the racing pace of “Jenny” – complete with short drum solo and audience participation - emboldened a stage diver to try his luck. Walk the Moon capped its 65-minute main set with a vibrant “Anna Sun” as more wildness and crowd surfing ensued.

Family of the Year is among a crowded crop of recent acts notable for their emphasis on group harmonies (Milo Greene, Grouplove, Of Monsters And Men). Yet this LA-based folk/rock band has a wide range of stylistic touchstones such as Arcade Fire, Guster and The Mamas and Papas. The impressive 45-minute set was simultaneously delicate and roughhewn at times. It revolved around fine major label debut album Loma Vista, released over the summer on Nettwerk Records.

The OC gig served as a homecoming for keyboardist/vocalist Christina Schroeter, who hails from Huntington Beach. She gave shout outs to various local cities, family members and friends in attendance. 

FOTY kicked off with the spirited, mini-hoedown vibe of “Buried.” Several song lyrics are peppered with SoCal references. Lead vocalist/guitarist Joe Keefe recalled a mid-1970s era Jackson Browne on “Never Enough.” 

A sway-worthy “Everytime” boasted prominent keyboard washes and was totally enrapturing. Other standouts included cascading group vocals on "In the End," the luxurious "Living on Love," overcoming the odds tune “Diversity” and an alluring, catchy “St. Croix,” inspired by an imaginary vacation.

No comments: