If their Oct. 26 concert at Underground Arts is any indication, Capital Cities has the most eclectic fan base of any band I’ve seen perform in Philadelphia. Several couples that appeared to be in their mid-70s were huddled near the back of the packed venue, and the concertgoers gradually got younger the closer I got to the stage (the exception being two children at the very back of the space, the youngest of which was seated on his father’s shoulders). A few parents seemed to have been coerced into going as chaperones, but many of those in attendance were in their late 20s or early 30s. A moderate number of excited teens were gathered right next to the stage.
Night Terrors of 1927 was the opening band, and from the number of people singing along it seems that they were a popular choice. Many of their songs were reminiscent of early 2000s angst-filled rock, with song titles like “Dust and Bones.” Front man Jarrod Gorbel contributed to this aesthetic with heavily tattooed arms and dark sunken eyes hidden behind a black, heavy fringe of hair.
After a short set it was time for Capital Cities to take the stage. Screaming fangirls, many of whom were in their 30s, greeted the band. The electro-pop group, made up of core duo Sebu Simonian and Ryan Merchant, brought all the appropriate accompaniments to their concert: a trumpet player, a bassist, a drummer and, of course, a Mac laptop.
It seems that Capital Cities has only one thing in mind when performing: making sure the audience has a good time. The first couple of songs were pretty standard, but on “Chartreuse,” Simonian and Merchant began a synchronized dance during the chorus. The entire audience joined in, including one man standing near me, who was so enthusiastic that he spilled a full cup of beer on his upset companion.
The group also paused about a third of the way through the set to give away some signed merchandise. The weird part? They weren’t copies of “In a Tidal Wave of Mystery,” the group’s only album to date. Instead, a Donny Osmond record was given away as well as a video game and several t-shirts.
A cover of “Stayin’ Alive” by The Bee Gees was a big hit with the crowd, as was a version of Madonna’s “Holiday.” “Remember the Time” by Michael Jackson was also popular. Merchant introduced it by saying, “We’re going to bring a little MJ, but we need you to dance while we do it.” The crowd obeyed.
However, the most popular song of the night by far was Capital Cities’ hit “Safe and Sound.” They’re certainly a self-aware group, because later in the show they played a remixed version of the song that lasted for about 10 minutes. During that time, they asked the crowd to remove one piece of clothing and wave it around their heads to participate in what Merchant said was a “Capital Cities tradition.”
The group ended the show with their song “Farrah Fawcett Hair.” The song is mostly a list, saying over and over that the items on the list are “good shit.” Things on the list include democracy, Nutella, Daniel Day Lewis and American Apparel ad girls.
Overall, Capital Cities put on a thoroughly fun show from start to finish. They got everyone moving and, during the Capital Cities “remove one item of clothing” tradition, half naked in some cases. Their set lasted for about an hour and a half, but it went by very quickly as the band seamlessly moved from one song to the next. And Underground Arts lent itself to the fun, upbeat show. I would certainly recommend the venue to anyone wishing to branch out from their usual concert spots.