Last Sunday I headed up to Merriweather for presumably the last time in 2015 to catch Of Monsters and Men. I’m glad they came back to DC so soon after I missed their show at Echostage in May, because 1) they are always a delight live and 2) there new album, while I hear very little buzz about it, is all sorts of fantastic.
Denmark’s Oh Land opened up and was all sorts of endearingly awkward. Their lead singer, dressed like a more sensible Bjork, played air flute on a drumstick, for example. It was poppy, it was dancey, it was interesting. The intros to their songs at times sounded identical to others (notably “Don’t Speak” by No Doubt and “Total Eclipse of the Heart” by Bonnie Tyler), but we’ll forgive them that because they were so happy. I wish they played longer than 30 minutes.
Of Monsters and Men played all of their new album, along with seven songs from their debut. People remained seated for the first two songs (I hate DC sometimes) but thankfully during the intro to “King and Lionheart” the drummer peer pressured everyone into standing, and most of us would remain so for the rest of the show. “Mountain Sound” and “Empire” were early highlights. They closed the set with three older tracks, “Lakehouse,” “Little Talks,” and “Six Weeks” before returning for a three song encore of “Organs,” “Dirty Paws,” and “We Sink.”
The venue wasn’t anywhere close to full. I guess some of the “Little Talks” fandom is wearing off, which is a shame since this band has yet to release an okay song and they are easily one of the top 20 live bands that I’ve ever seen. Every track on their first two albums is fantastic. Merriweather even did something that I’ve never seen before – allowing people on the lawn to fill in the sides of the pavilion because it was so empty. So get the net, DC. Don’t miss OMAM the next time they come around.
If Sleater-Kinney is only the second best concert of 2015 so far, who could possibly be beating them? The Replacements. At a venue that I hate no less. Because that’s how good the Replacements are.
Unfortunately this show conflicted with Those Darlins (who thankfully are coming back to DC with Shakey Graves this fall) and was at Echostage (boo, hiss!). I got there early enough to secure a spot in the second row and was surrounded by a crowd of largely very obnoxious old people. I had to pull the rare reverse ear plugs trick: ear plugs in between sets to drown out all high-pitched, loud banter around me that was starting to give me a headache and took them out during the loud, punk rock band. It worked quite well. The only benefit of the old people is that this was a no moshing zone.
J. Roddy Walston and the Business kicked things off. I’d never heard of them but they were amazing and I would go out of my way to see them again. It was interesting southern rock, alternating guitar and piano leads. It was as if a piano protégé in Tennessee grew up obsessed with Lynyrd Skynyrd. The combination worked marvelously. It was a totally different style than the Replacements but the energy was the same so it fit well.
I was giddy when I finally saw the Replacements play at ACL last year. In retrospect, that set was horrible compared to this show. The energy was way higher. The intensity was greater. They were having fun. Everything in the music – the vocals, the guitar hooks, EVERYTHING – sounded sharper. This was vintage Replacements. The set was ~30 songs. They kicked things off with “Takin’ a Ride.” They threw in covers. The climax at the end of the set was a string of songs including “Can’t Hardly Wait” and “Bastards of Young” that would be near impossible for any other band to top. They saved “Alex Chilton” for a six-song encore ending with “I.O.U.”
There are a still a few months left in 2015, but this show is going to be really hard to beat.