Walk the Moon lights up the Observatory
When Nicholas Petricca sang "we rattle this town / we rattle this scene" during "Anna Sun" on Nov. 15, that 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 (although some tracks were reworked from a 2010 indie effort).
But the aforementioned single, named after a college instructor, has totally boosted Walk the Moon's profile. It went Top 10 on Billboard's alternative chart and has been a KROQ playlist mainstay for quite awhile now (the band will appear at the first half of the station's annual Almost Acoustic Christmas concerts at Gibson Amphitheatre on Dec. 8). Meanwhile, an accompanying video has garnered 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 seemed to score only a few takers, though a smattering of concert-goers had already done themselves up. The crowd predominantly ranged from junior high school students through collegiate admirers.
Taking the stage to loud female shrieks, the quartet opened with a stomping version of "The Liftaway," with Petricca pounding on a single drum and playing keyboards. Fans dutifully pogoed, clapped along and shouted "hey" to the ebullient "Quesadilla" and its big synth sounds. Adding more lyrics focused on awkward romantic situations, a giddy "Next in Line" also saw Eli Maiman offer some sublime guitar work, while three of the musicians sang falsetto on the jittery gem "Shiver Shiver."
A few promising unreleased songs in a similar vein were also unveiled. The feisty New Wave feel of "Tête-a-Tête" and Killers-styled "Young Shoes" fared best (Petricca explained the latter track is about "a young American figuring things out"). Some crowd-surfing began amid current single "Tightrope," during which Maiman's reverb-drenched tones plus tribal beats from Sean Waugaman and Petricca made it one of the evening's highlights.
Later, the joyous, squelching-synth-driven "Fixin'" prompted a singalong 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 from the crowd ensued.
Family of the Year is among a crowded crop of recent acts (see also Milo Greene, Of Monsters and Men and Grouplove, who also play the Observatory this weekend) that have become notable for their emphasis on group harmonies. Yet this L.A. folk/rock outfit has a wide range of stylistic touchstones, such as Arcade Fire, Guster and the Mamas & the Papas. Their impressive 45-minute set was simultaneously delicate and rough-hewn, revolving around a fine major-label debut, Loma Vista, released over the summer on Nettwerk Records.
This O.C. gig also 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 songs are peppered with SoCal references, and lead vocalist/guitarist Joe Keefe recalled a mid-'70s era Jackson Browne on "Never Enough." The sway-worthy "Everytime" boasted prominent keyboard washes and was completely enrapturing.
Other standouts included cascading group vocals on "In the End," the luxurious "Living on Love," the overcoming-the-odds tune "Diversity" and an alluring, catchy "St. Croix," inspired by an imaginary vacation.
The pairing plays again tonight at 8 at the Fonda Theatre in Hollywood, though tickets are sold out.