Who doesn’t love coming home? To a college student, it usually means free food and laundry, possibly hanging out with the pet you haven’t seen a while; hopefully the family members you haven’t seen either. You gain a sense of comfort knowing that you know exactly where you belong, exactly where you stand. For the alt-rock band The Districts, homecoming was Valentine’s Day. In front of a sold-out Philly crowd at Union Transfer, The Districts put on a truly incredible performance.
Starting out in high school in a small town called Lititz, Pennsylvania (just outside of Lancaster), The Districts have steadily been growing their fan base. They self-released the album “Telephone” while still in high school before getting signed by the Mississippi-based record label, Fat Possum. A self-titled EP soon followed, as well as a move to the big city, Philadelphia. However, with the release of their second album “A Flourish and a Spoil” Feb. 10, The Districts have arrived in a huge way. Now they’re embarking on their first headlining tour. For a group of college-age kids, this hard-earned rise may seem meteoric.
After entertaining opening sets by The Lawsuits and Pine Barons, The Districts came out to a roar of applause from the patrons of the jam-packed venue. Lead singer and guitarist Rob Grote gave a brief hello before launching into the song, “Rocking Chair.” One song in, you could already tell that it was going to be quite the show. Drummer Braden Lawrence was set up towards the very back of the stage, giving Grote, bassist Connor Jacobus and guitarist Pat Cassidy plenty of room to operate. The Districts are known for their energetic live performances and this show in front of their home crowd was going to be no different.
Grote is a dynamo up on stage and the rest of the guys really drew off his energy. With his distinct vocal sound, he really imbues passion into every lyric. On songs like “Hounds” and “Bold” you see him build and build before exploding into frantic shouting by the end of the song. It’s awesome to see live as his hair flops about as he jumps and dances around before returning to the microphone stand just in time to deliver the next lyric.
While playing “A Flourish and a Spoil” in its entirety, the group sprinkled in some of their older songs along the way, including “Call Box,” “Lyla” and “Long Distance.” The latter was introduced with some sweet jamming before giving way to the signature-opening riff. Grote even let the crowd take over to sing some lines during the chorus. It was awesome.
After a 12-song set, The Districts really brought the house down with their three song encore. First, Grote played “6 AM,” a song he described as his “depressing attempt at a love song.” The rest of the band then joined him on stage to play the song that got the band on the map — “Funeral Beds.” Finally, it was time for the song that everyone was waiting for, the epic masterpiece from “A Flourish and a Spoil” — “Young Blood.”
“Young Blood” features some fantastic lyrics spread across about a nine-minute song that just builds and develops on itself in such a grand fashion. Lawrence starts out nice and slow before crashing in with a thunderous beat, propelling the rest of the song forward. Grote and Cassidy compliment each other nicely throughout the first portion of the song, but suddenly everything cuts out about halfway through, except for the smooth bass line of Jacobus. Then slowly but surely, the rest of the band comes back in before going into full on jam mode. Cassidy and Grote move all across the wide expanse of the stage, all the while hammering away at their guitars, driving the crowd into a frenzy. Singing, “It’s a long way down from the top to the bottom / It’s a long way to a high from where I am” over and over before launching into one last solo, Grote jumps right on top of the monitors, daring the fans in the front row to grab him. At one point he does what Buzz Lightyear might call “falling with style” off the stage, right into the crowd. It was bonkers.
It is safe to say that The Districts have firmly planted themselves on the upper tier of the Philly music scene. The band’s energetic style, coupled with their impassioned music and great live reputation should definitely win them fans all over as they continue on their tour. With a stellar new album under their belts and a tremendous stage presence to boot, be sure not to miss seeing The Districts the next time they come home.