Despite my best efforts to avoid crowds during flu season, I keep finding myself in them. However, live music on a Friday is a better reason than most to risk the elements and it’s been a minute since I’ve seen a show.
Jake Ewald’s (you know him as co-maestro of Modern Baseball) long-time side project, Slaughter Beach, Dog, opened the night with his dreamy, introspective, folk-rock. The crowd was a healthy size, a sea of softly bobbing heads and enthusiastic cheers at first sight of a harmonica — and there were children present, which is something you don’t normally see at 9 pm at The Met, but it worked. Ewald is from Philadelphia and after mentioning this, someone from the crowd made a comment about cheesesteak or something to that effect and that bothered me more than it should because well, I’m George Wilson. I enjoy crowd participation in sing-a-long and applause only–anything else can get off my lawn.
That being said, the setlist was stellar and covered all bases from releases of the last some odd years. “Shapes I Know” off of 2017’s Birdie, “Building the Ark” from the Motorcycle.jpg EP, “The Dogs” off the band’s latest release, Safe and Also No Fear, really came together in the most delightful 30 minutes of indie-rock storytime. Modern Baseball captured youth with such honesty and humor that fans easily clung to songs about feeling lost in the expanse and anxiety as some type of catharsis. Slaughter Beach, Dog hasn’t left this realm completely — the stories and emotion are still compelling — but they’ve matured alongside us. When Ewald sang, “Man, it cuts like a dull knife when you’re young and you’re told, “Makes sense when you’re older”, darling, let’s get old” from “Acolyte”, I found myself relating hard.
We Were Promised Jetpacks stepped on stage at 10:08 pm and vowed to play the best show they’ve ever played. Now, I’ve somehow never seen them live before (hope this doesn’t destroy my indie cred) but I feel confident they did. They at least played one of the best shows I’ve seen at The Met. All the right elements were present. You had the slow build of the setlist which started off with “Human Error” and sleepy energy from the crowd but once the band sunk their teeth into, “Moving Clocks Run Slow”, it was all systems go. The crowd suddenly came online and Pawtucket was party town U.S.A.
You had the right band shout out with bassist, Sean Smith wearing merch from their UK tour support, Weakened Friends. You had the band ignoring crowd requests (Good! Who needs them?) and pushing forward with prescribed songs in all their driving, melodic, sequential bigness. You had the crowd singing along in their best Scottish accents to “Quiet Little Voices”, which singer Adam Thompson pointed out has 17 million streams on Spotify. He asked if that’s good. Both “Satisfied” and “The Schuyler Sisters” off the Hamilton soundtrack have over 17 million streams as well so this tune is in very good company.
Thompson is a dream of a frontman. He’s enormously talented on vocals (transcends genre!) and pen (such lyrics!) and my note under “Someone Else’s Problem” from their latest album, The More I Sleep the Less I Dream, is “sounds like 80’s U2 and Echo and the Bunnymen” which is of course, high praise. Thompson managed to frequently interact with the crowd while taking moments to himself on stage. It’s not all performance, it’s not all personal, and it’s the balance that makes it special. We While fans appeared eternally grateful for such a phenomenal show, We Were Promised Jetpacks ended their night on a gracious note; incessantly thankful to their fans, the folks they work with, The Met staff. You love to see it.