Globe Hall Presents
The Districts + Cymbals Eat Guitars
Spirit of the Beehive, Bar-B-Que opens at 4PM!
Doors: 7:00 pm / Show: 8:00 pmGlobe Hall
$15.00 - $18.00
This event is 16 and over
All sales are final. Review your order carefully, there are no refunds for any reason. Tickets are non-transferable. No tickets are mailed to you, your name will be on the will call list night of show. Night of show (1) bring a valid government issued ID and (2) print your confirmation e-mail and bring with you night of show. Come hungry! Check out Globe Hall’s award winning BBQ!https://www.globehall.com/event/1474389/
The total electric charge of Popular Manipulations is just the latest evolution for the impressively young quartet, whose founding members -- vocalist/guitarist Rob Grote, bassist Connor Jacobus, and drummer Braden Lawrence -- have known each other since attending grade school together in the Pennsylvania town of Lititz. After deciding to form a band in high school, the Districts gigged hard in the tri-state area, releasing a slew of promising material (including the rootsy 2012 debut Telephone) before catching the eye of venerable indie Fat Possum. 2015's A Flourish and a Spoil found the band refining their embryonic sound with veteran producer John Congleton (St. Vincent, Kurt Vile) -- and looking back on that release, there are glimmers of Popular Manipulations in chrysalis form to be found on it, hints of the fence-swinging anthemic sound they'd soon make wholly their own.
After touring behind A Flourish and a Spoil, Grote began "playing with different ideas" in his own songwriting by making demos at a prolific pace. "We knew that we wanted to change some things musically, so we were trying to come up with as many songs as possible to narrow the direction we wanted to take the material," he states. In total, they ended up with 50 song ideas, and so they were off to LA in May of 2016 with new guitarist Pat Cassidy in tow to log more recording time with Congleton, with four of Popular Manipulations' songs coming out of the sessions.
"We have a lot of overlapping tastes and preferences for how things are made," Grote gushes about working with the notably reliable studio wizard -- but acceding all credit to Congleton (who also handled the record's mixdown) would be shortchanging the Districts themselves, who went on to self-produce the remainder of the record in Philadelphia with engineer Keith Abrams. "Something we took from working with Congleton was ideas on arranging songs," Grote explains, and they certainly learned a lot: Popular Manipulations is a raucous and impressively thick-sounding album, overflowing with toothy melodies that pack a serious punch.
The distinctly intense sound of Popular Manipulations -- charging guitars, thunderous drumming, and Grote's searing vocals -- was brought on by a few cited influences, from shoegaze's aggressive swirl to the Velvet Underground's impeccable drone-rock sound. There's a distinctly Canadian flavor to this brand of indie rock, too; Spencer Krug's anthemic, lushly inscrutable work in Wolf Parade and his defunct Sunset Rubdown side project comes to mind, as does 2000s Toronto barnburners the Diableros' overlooked 2006 gem You Can't Break the Strings in Our Olympic Hearts.
But don't mistake easy comparisons for a lack of originality: on Popular Manipulations, the District are in a lane entirely their own, exploring lyrical themes of isolation and abandonment in a way that ups the music's already highly charged emotional quotient. "Capable" finds Grote turning his focus to the ruinous aftermath of divorce, and "Before I Wake" is, in his words, "About coming to terms with being isolated or alone -- even though we have a whole group of voices singing the whole time." Grote explains that even the title of the record touches on these universal concerns: "It hints at how people use each other, for good or bad, and the personal ways you manipulate yourself and other people in day-to-day interactions."
For such weighty thematic material, though, Popular Manipulations is purely life-affirming rock music, bursting with energy that cuts through the darkness of the world that surrounds us. "We're a much better distillation of who we wish to be as a band," Grote reflects on the journey that has led the Districts to this point. "We've figured out how to distill the things we've been trying to accomplish as a band, musically and lyrically. We've always viewed making music as something we're trying to do better the whole time." Mission accomplished.
The band, composed of singer/guitarist Joseph D’Agostino, bassist Whipple, keyboardist Brian Hamilton, and drummer Andy Dole, have indeed crafted what’s easily their most sonically enigmatic and most rewarding album to date. Their trademark cacophonic guitar rock and innate propulsion are still abundant, but they’re buttressed by raucous synth and keyboard lines, and an extemporaneous saxophone performance, which enrich when they could easily clutter these songs. The band also worked more quickly and efficiently than they had in the past, facilitated by years on the road in which they’ve played close to a thousand shows, which rendered them a tight, fully-oiled machine in the studio.
D’Agostino emphasizes that the band always goes into the studio with an edict of crafting an album that replicates their live sound, but haven’t had that come into full fruition until now. “With this record…I think we nailed it this time. First or second takes of everything, real hunger in the performances. Just something to prove.” He stresses that he’d be happy with the band’s chaotic yet tight performances on songs, yet would expect producer John Congleton to ask him to do multiple run throughs. To his surprise, Congleton would say pithily, in D’Agostino’s words, “ok, what’s next?,” obviously satisfied with the results. Remarkably, the band tracked the album in four days.
This looseness is apparent from the outset, on the epic grandeur of opener “Finally,” which shimmers with complex beauty, leading into the sweet rush of “Have a Heart,” which finds D’Agostino singing, “I’m so out of sync / And you’re out of sync with me,” which could well be a mantra for the visceral appeal of this superb record.
The entire album is rife with electrified, flashbulb moments—“4th of July, Philadelphia (SANDY)” conveys the madness of life on the road, exhibiting D’Agostino’s uncanny ability to transform minutiae into profundity. This skill is evident in spades on the record’s centerpiece and opus, the disarmingly vulnerable “Dancing Days.” The song also exhibits the contributions of Whipple, and slyly invokes the album’s title in its magisterial chorus, as D’Agostino contritely croons, “Goodbye to my pretty years.”
“In a dark moment on tour for LOSE, I said something to Matt about losing my pretty years quickly because of touring, how the lifestyle ages you,” explains D’Agostino. “Months later when we were writing for the record, he came to me with the lyrics for that chorus and I wrote the song around them.”
D’Agostino gets to the crux of his emotions on the album’s closer, “Shrine,” in which he veers from the ghosts chasing him into fever dream territory, seemingly coming to terms with demons past. The instrumentation itself is a gorgeous storm-cloud of guitars, building glacially to a cathartic denouement, as D’agostino sings with mounting emotion, “Where will it all go when I die / Never know while I’m alive.” Circumspect about discussing his lyrics’ meanings, D’Agostino laughs when the dark nature of the song’s broached, “This is a record that has many moods!”
And indeed, Pretty Years is a roller coaster ride, both lyrically and sonically, that encompasses what it’s like to be alive and in the moment. But ultimately, this is an album that keenly captures the magic and loss attendant to living life wide-eyed, and hints that these “pretty years” may portend even prettier ones to come.
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