Probably the first thing to note – or, rather, get out of the way – about Thursday’s Cold War Kids show at the Clubhouse is the subpar turnout. This seems more an indictment of the sometimes-apathetic scene here than Cold War Kids, who, after all, originally were scheduled to open for the Futureheads but had the foresight to keep the dates and headline themselves after Futureheads canceled. Had the show been booked with Cold War Kids as headliner from the get-go, it’s likely a smaller, more fitting venue would have been picked. But inside the Clubhouse, a fairly open, midsize venue, the 40 or so people who showed up made it feel rather empty.
I realize a few factors were at play here. The Futureheads’ cancellation didn’t help and Thrice was playing across town at Marquee Theater, possibly siphoning off some potential Clubhouse-goers. But I saw at least a couple people walk up to buy tickets who left once they found out the Futureheads canceled. That, to me, is the frustrating part. Hey, you’re already out; pay the $10 and take in a show, which turned out to be really damn good. Naturally, Cold War Kids packed their hometown Los Angeles show the previous night, so I wonder what their expectations/feelings were about coming to Arizona. But then, we saw Band of Horses at the Rhythm Room in Phoenix about six months apart and the second show was sold out, about 300 people compared to roughly 75 the first time. That’s a telling sign of the scene here – frustratingly fair-weather. I imagine as Cold War Kids continue to pick up steam, their next stop here will be significantly more crowded.
And their inevitable popularity won’t surprise me at all either, but I will reserve the right to bitch at the next show when we’re all shoulder to shoulder and I can’t buy a beer because it’s too crowded: “Where the hell were you people last time?” Just in the four months since we first saw them in Tucson, Cold War Kids appeared more grounded and confident in their live set, though, fortunately, that doesn’t mean any less energetic. Guitarist Jonnie Russell is a kinetic performer, stomping around and twisting his torso, a welcome bit of showmanship when singer Nathan Willett is tied to his piano bench.
That loose energy serves their songs well. They opened with We Used to Vacation, which sounded oddly cohesive for how many moving parts (piano, rattle, free-standing cymbal being bashed with said rattle) are taking place at once. The group is averse to boring three-chord pitfalls, each instrument taking off on different paths before meeting at the common goal. Singer Nathan Willett inevitably steers the whole thing straight. His voice can soar or dive in or out, up and down. It’s probably more impressive and powerful live than on record, which, I would guess, is not an easy feat.
As for favorites, well, Hospital Beds can do no wrong, and hearing that jogging guitar line on Rubidoux and that sturdy bassline on Hang Me Up to Dry (the closer) pretty much sealed my enjoyment for the evening.
Los Angelians (Los Angelites?, Los Angelists?) band from Los Angeles Foreign Born opened. I liked them quite a bit, though I hate hearing a band for the first time live because it never really sticks. I’m putting them on my radar for CD shopping. Anyway, they have a blog, too.