Tuesday night was the annual Deck the Hall Ball show put on by our friends at 107.7 The End, and it had a great lineup, with Vampire Weekend, Lorde, Phoenix, Alt-J, Arctic Monkeys, Foals, The Head and the Heart, and CHVRCHES. We were lucky to have David Lichternman there with his SLR to capture these photos of Lorde, Alt-J, The Head and the Heart, Phoenix, and Vampire Weekend. Be sure to check out more of his photos on his Flickr page.
The Head and the Heart:
3pm on a Tuesday is an odd time to have a music festival. But for the lineup we were about to watch at the 2013 Deck the Hall Ball, sacrifices were made. I left work early, and I’d wager most of the audience ducked out of their final classes of the day to make it down to the Key in time for the start of the event.
First up, CHVRCHES, from Scotland. This was their second official trip through Seattle (I wrote about their previous performance at the Showbox at the Market for ARS back in September). Even though the arena was only 20% full when they took the stage for their 30 minute set, they played as though the place was packed. The short set time allowed them to only play the best songs from their one-and-only album, The Bones of What You Believe. But the crowd that was present clapped along and cheered loudly, regardless, or perhaps unknowing, of their meager size. Sadly, the band did not reprise their cover of Prince’s “I Would Die 4 U.”
Next up was Foals, a band I’ve been told to listen to on numerous occasions but had simply not found the time to until now. They’re also from across the Atlantic, hailing from Oxford, England. If you’re familiar with !!! (Chk Chk Chk), then you have a good start on understanding what Foals is all about. Dancey beats created by a traditional band setup (two guitars, bass, keyboards and drums). But where !!! is poppy, Foals are harder, more droning, and every bit as fun. The lead singer, Yannis Philippakis, has a voice a bit like Jim James from My Morning Jacket, but more crackly. Until now, I didn’t think there was a plausible intersection of MMJ and !!!. Foals have proven me wrong.
Third up, another across-the-water artist, but this time from the other direction. Lorde. Where to begin? At 17, she’s already on top of the world. She came through town (away from her New Zealand homeland) for the Decibel Festival not even 3 months ago, and here she is again for The End’s Holiday party. Her live set is to be fairly “expected”: drums, keyboards, and her. Somewhat odd were the backing vocals, which were completely canned. And knowing that it was Lorde’s own voice singing backup made it all the more strange when she would hold the mic away from her mouth yet you’d hear her voice singing the harmonies. While not singing, Lorde does a bit of dancing. Her body reacts to the beats of the song in a staccato convulsion, like the music is being produced by the sheer motion of her limbs. And of course she played “Royals,” and everybody was overjoyed that she did.
Another English band hit the stage next: Arctic Monkeys. The kids at the nearly-full Key Arena had an electric kind of love for them. The band played both old and new songs, the most recognizable to me being “I Bet You Look Good on the Dance Floor.” The band chose to dress up a bit, wearing button down shirts and jackets. Alex Turner, the lead singer, even wore a bolo tie before ditching it midway through the set. Halfway through a song, the band did a mini cover of Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” that seemed to go completely unnoticed by the crowd.
So far, no American bands. I’d like to understand why that is. Is most good music non-American these days? Does the End play a heavy percentage of non-American bands? Or is the person who booked the Ball just a huge fan of music by bands with accents?
The arena was now full for the fifth band of the day, ∆ (Alt J), also from England. This marks the third time I’ve seen the band this year, and I have to admit I’m ready for some new songs. Not to say the songs from last year’s stellar debut, An Awesome Wave, aren’t good — they’re awesome. But it’s time for something new, boys. Even so, hearing the band go from “Something Good” to “Tessellate,” “Matilda,” “Dissolve Me,” and finally “Breezeblocks,” with the audience singing along to every word, is a rather awe inspiring site.
And now, finally, an American band! They’re even from Seattle! I believe everyone reading this post knows The Head and the Heart. Other than their way-too-small-and-last-minute “secret” show at the Columbia City Theater the week that their second album, Let’s Be Still, launched back in October, the band hadn’t played Seattle since 2012 (the Gorge doesn’t count). It was good to see them, even in a venue 500 million times larger than the last time they played.
With a good mix of new and sold songs, I was pleasantly surprised to hear the young audience do a group singalong to more than a couple of them. Towards the end of their set, the band announced they’d be playing the Paramount on February 21, 2014, and it made me pine for the days when they played the smaller venues around town. Just because I knew they’d get huge doesn’t lessen the blow.
The second-to-last band on stage was Phoenix, from Versailles, France. I expected the band to blow the roof off of the Key, and they did not disappoint. But not until they had to overcome some technical difficulties. At the start of their set, something in their equipment was stuck, continuously making the opening chord of their opening song. I have a feeling it was supposed to do that for a short sustained time, but not for a full three minutes where the band just stands there looking pretty. Lead singer Thomas Mars took matters into his own hands. “This doesn’t work, so we’ll improvise.” At which point four of the six members of the band left the stage, Mars jumped down to crowd level and mounted the front barrier. With the front-row crowd holding him steady, he and the lead guitarist started the set with a quiet song.
That gave the crew just the right amount of time to get things fixed. As soon as that impromptu opening song ended, the rest of the band came back out. The opening chord was heard once again, but it ended promptly and the band kicked off in earnest. We had worked our way up to the hour-long sets of the night, and they filled the time amply. I’m not that familiar with their albums, but one powerful song after another got the crowd moving, bouncing, swaying, and thrusting their arms in the air. “Lisztomania” and “1901” were the highlights for sure.
Towards the end of the set, Mars once again got down to the front barrier. He then crowd surfed into the crowd to about 20 feet deep, before standing up on the hands of the fans. It was an impressive sight. They left the stage elated and exhausted, and I began to wonder if their set would be the best one of the night.
And last but definitely not least, Vampire Weekend. Even though Phoenix set the bar extremely high, Vampire Weekend proved to everyone why they were the headliners. Lead singer Ezra Koenig was dressed in fancy navy blue and white polka dot pajamas, which feels like the perfect outfit to headline a music festival in. The rest of the band wore clothes you’d expect of a rock band.
All three of Vampire Weekend’s albums were represented well during the set. While their set wasn’t as bombastic as Phoenix’s, it was more consistent, with danceable song after danceable song being blasted across the ecstatic venue. Having sat through nearly nine hours of music, the crowd didn’t show any signs of slowing down as the band played on. Smiles surrounded me, mixed with a controlled dancing, so as not to fall on top of the person one row below you.
The dancing on the main floor was anything but controlled, however. The crowd had so far abided by the Key’s strict “no crowd-surfing” rules (aside from the Phoenix lead singer’s rule-breaking stint), but no longer. During “A-Punk,” from the band’s first album, numerous crowd surfers could be seen being passed around the tops of hands. The rest of the floor was giddily bouncing and singing along.
As the band announced they had two songs remaining, the crowd started to thin out. Nine hours is a long time to stand and listen to amazing band after amazing band. The stronger among us were goofily smiling and dancing like mad through to the end.
The final song finished, and the lights came up. Knowing the (unusual for Seattle) freezing temperatures were awaiting me outside, my tired and sweat-soaked body was excited to be free into the night. It was a great day/night of music, and the Deck the Hall Ball got us all properly primed for the holiday season.
The great Sallie Ford and the Sound Outside are once again making the drive North from Portland to Seattle and playing a show at the Crocodile. It’ll all take place on Thursday, December 19 (and will also feature ARS friends/faves Red Jacket Mine). So, it’ll be a great show and you’ll want to go. The band even has a new EP called Summer coming out in the dead of the winter.
We want to send one of our readers to the show (with a guest!) – and that could very easily be you. You’ll just need to send an e-mail to email@example.com by 9am on Tuesday, December 19 by 9am with “Sallie” in the subject line. We’ll draw the name of the winner shortly after that. The show is all ages, so anyone who can be in Seattle on 12/19 can enter. Exciting!
Or you can buy tickets here for $15 each.
ICYMI: my Twitter feed blew up yesterday when the awesome rock trio Sandrider was featured on “Monday Night Football” last night as the Seahawks kicked the shit out of the New Orleans Saints. The brief segment was about how the now-World Record breaking crowd at Century Link Field is louder than a loud rock band. For additional context, I sometimes wear a Sandrider “Louder than Louder than Love” t-shirt.
It’s pretty awesome and you can watch it below – and see for yourself how loud Sandrider can be when they play at Easy Street Records in West Seattle on Thursday at 7pm (all ages and free). And pick up their new album Godhead on Good to Die Records.