You know, going to live shows was what my wife and I did. Even before she was my wife, we’d jump in the car and head out and see bands we loved live. The first band we ever saw together was Petra. Neither of us loved Petra. We were invited by my uncle to come along with him and his youth group. For two high school sweethearts it seemed like an opportune time to hang out 35 miles from home. Suffice it to say, we still chuckle about that one, 24 years later. But still by the time we were married in 1996 we had a scrapbook full of ticket stubs of shows we’d seen. It was our thing. Some went to ball games, while others went golfing or bar hopping…we hit stadiums, clubs, amphitheaters, and the like to see shows.
So as you can imagine, it’s quite sad to this middle-aged guy when it dawns on him he’s getting too old for this. The driving, the cost, the crowds, the late nights, the crowds….it’s all too much for my 41-year old psyche to handle. It would be one thing if I was a half hour from some great venues. Or if there was a train we could take from our town to these shows. The driving aspect really is the biggest bummer in all this. When I’m feeling anxiety about driving home a half hour into a show it really does take the fun out of a night out. Despite all that, when I heard that The War On Drugs would be playing at the Vogue in Indianapolis earlier this year I knew I had to push through the anxiety and old man tendencies and get those tickets. The War On Drugs are one of my favorite bands, and I had to see them.
The drive down was awash in weather omens. Driving down on 69 South we ran in to some crazy weird dark clouds, lightning, and some heavy rain. I fought the urge to say “Ehh, let’s just turn around and go listen to the album in the living room. What do you say, honey?” No, I wasn’t going to do that this time(there may have been a time or two before where that happened.) We pushed through and made it to just outside of Indianapolis and stopped for some much needed grub. Pub burger and fries with a 24 oz Stella Artois always makes things better.
The Vogue in Indianapolis from the outside looks like an old theater, complete with box office and lighted marquee. Once you get inside the stage is directly in front of you, with two sets of stairs on either side that lead up to balcony areas. Since we’re old we wanted to sit and watch, like two grandparents in lawn chairs watching over the grandkids beating each other in the backyard. Unfortunately we got there about 20 minutes after the doors opened so both of the corner perches were taken. We settled on a couple seats along the railing that had a so-so view. We could’ve been down by the stage, just a few feet in front of the action, but like I said I’m old and curmudgeonly.
The Everymen opened the night. A great sextet out of New Jersey that had the energy of downtown punk in the 70s, with sweaty rock ‘n roll soul. Imagine, The Blasters, X, and The E Street Band morphing into this Voltron-like punk n’ roll beast. You’d have an idea of what this cool group of fellas and one gal were creating on the Vogue stage last night. The lead singer/guitarist gave props to local record shop Luna Music for supporting them all these years by keeping their music in house and just being generally awesome people. I thought that was pretty cool of them.
After The Everymen exited the stage there was only about 20 minutes of tidying up before The War On Drugs entered the stage with Robert Plant’s “In The Mood” blasting through the PA speakers. I felt that was a great way to start the evening. The first two songs they played I didn’t recognize, but they sounded amazing. Lead singer/guitarist Adam Granduciel introduced the songs, but I couldn’t make out what he said. He’s a quiet talker, but when it comes to singing he very clear. They plowed through a good portion of Lost in the Dream and hit up a few from 2011s excellent Slave Ambient as well. They played two of my favorite songs, “Burning” and “Under The Pressure” off of Lost in the Dream. “Burning” is this amazing driving track that harkens back to the days when artists could be musicians, songwriters, and have radio hits. Live it’s anthemic, and I had a hard time keeping myself from jumping up and down to the rhythm(fear of falling off the balcony kept that urge at bay.) “Under The Pressure” is a perfect example of what Granduciel and his cohorts are all about: beautiful pop melodies, expansive noise excursions, and upbeat vibes covering a song about losing your mind to anxiety. It’s true art made easy to swallow. Beautiful stuff.
I have to mention one thing: I never realized just how amazing of a guitarist Adam Granduciel is. Within those songs Granduciel played guitar on par with guys like Mike Campbell, Nels Cline, and Mark Knopfler. I could’ve sat and just watched the guy solo for hours. Seriously. His playing in “Baby Missles” and “An Ocean In Between The Waves” was astoundingly good. He changed guitars nearly every song, switching between a Les Paul, Fender Strat, Fender Jazzmaster, 12-string Strat, and a big-bodied guitar I couldn’t make out. Each one brought something unique to the songs, and each were capo’d differently. Granduciel likes to play his guitars capo’d at different frets, which gives his exploratory rock ‘n roll a folksy feel I quite love. The wife and I split after they played title track “Lost in the Dream”. It was a glorious rendition. I felt the Sandman shoveling a ton of sand in my eyes, and we had three hours to drive before we made it home.
I do have to point out how impressed I was with the Vogue. Most concerts I go to there’s always a few asshats that you run into. Drunks being total turds that kind of ruin an otherwise decent evening. This was not the case with the Vogue. Sure folks were having a good time, but everyone I ran into was super cool and polite. No beer was spilt on my wife or I as we sat down being surrounded by dudes, dudettes, and open containers. The staff was on it and very cool as well. Cool venue and cool people.
I won’t bore you with my struggle to stay awake, scolding my tongue on too-hot coffee, or missing my turn and having to backtrack before we left the state capital. I will tell you that late night cookie joints are cool(as we found out before hitting the road.) And listening to Marc Maron’s WTF Podcast helped the drive immensely, though my wife did have to take over the wheel about 30 minutes from home. I was losing the battle, man. I was losing the battle.
Despite my middle-aged anxieties and mild panic attack moments, The War On Drugs were well worth the personal strain and strife. The wife and I got to spend an evening together, have a lovely meal with some lovely spirits, and watch one of the best goddamned rock ‘n roll bands play one of the best goddamned rock ‘n roll shows I’ve seen in years. We will definitely make the trek back to Indy for another show at the Vogue if one comes through that peaks our interest(though this time some No Doz and a six pack of Red Bulls may be coming with.)
Editor’s Note: Upon looking back on the evening, I have to say there was a real moment of Zen. With all the anxiety of driving, the weather, parking, and whatever else there was a moment last night when my wife nudged me and pointed down to the floor at the show. Standing in front of the main bar on the floor were two older gentlemen watching opening act The Everymen. How old they were exactly I do not know. Both had bright white hair, I can tell you that much. During one of the more spirited songs these two guys were rocking the f**k out. I mean, air drumming, banging their heads, and generally losing their f*****g minds, man. It was quite beautiful and inspiring to see. At first I thought maybe they were out of their minds drunk, or having an attack. But once the song was over they both chilled, laughed and continued to enjoy the show. They were just getting into it, man. Gives me hope that I’ll still be doing this when I’m in my 50s and 60s. Still getting out and enjoying the rock and roll experience.
I can only hope.