The powerhouse NYC indie rock band The Walkmen reunited in their NYC homeland and played five straight nights of sold out shows at Webster Hall last week, and I was lucky enough to catch the second show of their run Thursday night. They started off their tour with a show in Westerly, RI which was their first performance in over a decade. The following shows were a true homecoming for these legendary New York rockers that electrified the music scene in the early 00’s as a key figure in a massive explosion of local NYC rocker talent that included bands like The Strokes, Interpol, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, The Rapture, TV on the Radio, LCD Soundsystem, and many more, but even back then they set themselves apart from the rest. While many of their contemporaries leaned on retro elements to their sound, often blending 70’s Punk, 80’s New Wave, and 90’s Goth and Grunge to form their soundscapes; The Walkmen with their woozy atmospheres and passionate howling vocals seemed totally out of time and at times out of their minds. The whole band grew up around the DC area, but came up to NYC in the 90’s to grab a piece of the gritty and grimy Big Apple energy that has super fueled artists for ages. The band released seven studio albums in almost fifteen years of performing, but went into a hiatus in 2014. However, the band is now back in a major way, with the whole original lineup of drummer Matt Barrick, bassist/organist Peter Matthew Bauer, frontman Hamilton Leithauser, guitarist Paul Maroon, and multi-instrumentalist Walter Martin all preparing to once again take the world by storm.
Opening the show was the LA-based rock quartet Liily, and their deep grooves and crazed wails were a sight to behold. This band has been making waves for a few years now, and their influences that includes jazz, electronica, and shoegaze were all on display, but what I mostly saw and heard on Thursday was a sound and show that reminded me more of Iggy and The Stooges or David Johansen and the NY Dolls with a raw and blistering edginess that was at times aggressively unhinged. I do feel as though the band was not exactly having a great time on stage, as the spastically flailing frontman Dylan Nash did sometimes seem upset at the sound quality he was getting and something more than just the artistic muse not agreeing with him. Still, the band’s dynamic music did manage the shine through the rather darker mood on display during the show, and I will say their debut album TV Or Not TV from 2021 is still a real banger.
The Walkmen stepped out on stage and immediately mesmerized the packed sold out crowd as they opened with an early fan favorite in the howling and passionate “They’re Winning” from 2001’s Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me Is Gone. I like that they only waited a few songs in to play one of my favorite songs “The Rat” from 2004’s Bows + Arrows as that powerhouse of a song really helped propel the whole show into the stars. They played multiple classics off of every one of their albums, like “On the Water,” “In the New Year,” “Heaven,” “The Blizzard of ’96,” “Blue as Your Blood,” and a bewitching encore that included the enchanting show-closing classic “We’ve Been Had” which truly brought the house down. Throughout the night Leithauser regaled the audience with stories of surviving and thriving in NYC, as he lived on the Upper West Side while the band made it on the Lower East Side, which is especially apt as Webster Hall is really only blocks away from a LES venue called Brownies, where I first saw them play way back in 2002. At the time I had never really had heard their music before, but I have been lost in their music ever since. The band are still set for more shows in Philly, Chicago, and DC as well as multiple festival appearances, and they just announced some European dates as well, and it is also rumored that they may have signed a new recording contract with Verve, so it appears as though return as just begun.
Article/Images: Dean Keim