Concert Review: Nada Surf, Dec. 5 2008, 9:30 Club DC

Washington DC – Hello, this is the first posting by me, Tom, the Panic Manual’s new correspondent located in Washington DC. My roots are Canadian, but my studies have taken me into a foreign and strange land…albeit a land filled with good music and good places to listen to music.  I am going to start this post with a brief review about the Washington DC music scene, as well as the 9:30 Club as a venue.

Now, Washington DC has a quite diverse and varied musical past. Starting with the US Marine Band in the 1800’s, music in DC has progressed quite a bit, including being home to reknowned artists as diverse as Roberta Flack (“Killing Me Softly with His Song“), to the Thievery Corporation, to rock icons such as Dave Grohl.  There are also numerous famous venues in Washington DC that have hosted momentous shows, as well as helping artists ply their trade.  The most famous of these locations is the 9:30 Club (or Nightclub 9:30).  This club hosted the first American show for The Police, as well as a performance by the Beastie Boys after a 5-year hiatus.  Over the years, the 9:30 Club has developed into one of the best venues in the area, winning Pollstar’s “Nightclub of the Year” Award 4 times.  In my opinion, this venue is by far the best in DC, featuring great acoustics, an intimate setting, accessible bars, good sight-lines from many locations, and a great location in the city.

The concert featured two opening bands: The Jealous Girlfriends and Delta Spirit.  As is the custom in most areas, my friends and I skipped the first opener (The Jealous Girlfriends).  From the accounts of people that I talked to at the show, these guys actually put on a decent performance.  A little bit more research uncovered a song called “Organs on the Kitchen Floor“, which I apparently like a fair bit.  The other songs that I briefly checked out had a New Pornographers-esque quality to them.  They also had a song featured on the Grey’s Anatomy Volume 3 soundtrack, which is excellent publicity for a band.  I think I will need to listen to a few more songs from this band.

We arrived in time for the last 2/3s of Delta Spirit‘s set.  This band is from San Diego, CA and have been described as a “hybrid of rock and northern soul”.  Immediately, this band impressed me by their high energy and use of non-traditional instruments (the song “Trashcan” actually features the use of a garbage can lid, to great effect).  The lead singer’s (Matt Vasquez) voice struck me as being similar to Brandon Flowers, although Delta Spirit’s music was much more upbeat and energetic than The Killers.  Unfortunately, the sound engineers were not on their game, and the lead singer’s voice and lyrics were drowned out by the instruments during most songs.  Nevertheless, I did enjoy what I heard, and would suggest checking this band out.  The song “People C’mon” particularly stuck out to me.

Prior to attending this concert, I was only familiar with Nada Surf’s third album “Let Go”.  This album actually impressed me a lot, and I quite enjoyed it.  “Let Go” had mostly a laid back quality to it, where you could actively enjoy the music or just have it playing in the background.  However, this band was mainly known in the 90’s for their song “Popular” (an odd video to be sure), which I had never heard at the time, and which wasn’t played at the show.

Nada Surf’s set-list comprised songs mainly from their last three albums “Lucky”, “The Weigh is a Gift” and “Let Go”, and lasted for just under 2 hours….and they rocked out for all of it.  Their sound was very crisp, with the balance between the vocals and instruments ideal.  However, although I enjoyed the concert, the overall sound was very generic.  If you went into the concert not knowing the band at all, I think you would kind of shrug your shoulders, and say “well, that was alright, but nothing special”…a sentiment offered by my friend Barry.  Consequently, the show was unlikely to have won over many new fans.   The extreme example was brought forth by my friend’s roommate, who actually left the concert early.   Nevertheless, I think that if you were a fan beforehand, the band did not disappoint.  Highlights of the show include the playing of “Blizzard of ’77” (my favourite Nada Surf song) as the first song of the encore.  Also, in a show of force seldom seen anymore, members of The Jealous Girlfriends and Delta Spirit joined Nada Surf on stage and rocked out for a while during one of the last songs, as a celebration of the end of the tour…a refreshing reminder that music is often about making connections and having fun.

Overall, a very solid, enjoyable show.  The only drawback is that people with no knowledge of the band would not have been as engaged as I was.  For that reason, this concert gets a rating of:


Posted on by Tom in Concerts, Everything