SXSW Live Shot: The War on Drugs

Long wait proves worth the price of admission

“There’s something, like, weird going on,” noted a girl on Thursday as the War On Drugs’ setup at Clive Bar lasted an hour.

Photo by Jana Birchum

The Philadelphia sextet headlined the venue’s third and final night of StubHub’s Culture Collide. Their scheduled set time was midnight. By 1am, with frontman Adam Granduciel’s dozen-plus guitar pedals in order, the psych-rock perfectionists began.

Delay wasn’t the only hiccup the Rainey Street locale faced Thursday. Earlier, a visit from the Fire Marshal resulted in a drastic capacity cut, allowing in only trickles of badge holders on a one-in-one-out basis, or as management called it, “More like 20 in, 20 out.” Eventually, the crowd re-thickened.

A 60-minute soundcheck’s a lot to ask of a weary festival crowd, but WOD soon proved worth the wait. Their pristine third album, Lost In the Dream (released one year ago to the day), was largely featured. Set opener “Burning” unveiled the band’s classic Springsteen-spun guitar rock with a psychedelic backbone. Slave Ambient’s “Baby Missiles” rocketed pep.

Backed by organ, synth, and sax, Granduciel continued tinkering with his many pedals throughout the hourlong set, like an obsessive mad scientist, but wearing a Salem cigarettes T-shirt. Dream cuts “Under the Pressure” and “An Ocean In Between the Waves” embodied the group’s collective talent. Though the guitarist seemed unsatisfied, abruptly throwing down his guitar before walking offstage, no one that had witnessed the performance complained.

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The War on Drugs, SXSW Music 2015, Adam Granduciel, Bruce Springsteen

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