Concert Review: The Young Rapids at DC9 (Washington, D.C.)

The Sky Drops (Wilmington, Delaware), Turning Violet Violet (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania), and The Young Rapids (Washington, D.C.)
August 19, 2012
DC9 in Washington, D.C.

So, Washington, where were you last Sunday night?

I know, it was raining, and you would have surely melted had you gone out, right? Wrong. You were lazy and missed out on a great show by one of our fair city’s best local bands.

A small, but appreciative crowd turned out for the show at DC9, which featured headliners The Young Rapids, supported by Turning Violet Violet and The Sky Drops.

The Sky Drops, a guy-girl duo whose setup includes just drums and guitar, kicked the show off. The band’s sound is heavily grunge-influenced (the band members even look like they could have stepped out of a time machine from that era), with a hint of psychedelia. Unfortunately, the blast from the past vibe was all that was memorable about their set. Little variation in tone from song to song and bland vocal melodies made for monotony, and more concert-goers bellying up to the bar than watching the show.

Next up was Turning Violet Violet. The five-member Philly-based band said this was only their second time playing in the District, but they seemed to already have a following on hand here.

The band has a well-defined indie pop sound, with a fairly standard instrument setup, with the exception of a viola. Early in the set it wasn’t clear that the viola added much to the benefit of the band, but as they played more it filled in nicely when other instruments took a back seat. Also worth noting are the band’s drummer and bassist, who both proved to be vibrant and talented performers who anchored the rest of the band.

Turning Violet Violet delivered an earnest set of suite-like songs filled with catchy vocal hooks and pop tempos.

Now, if The Young Rapids aren’t already on your radar (they got buzz at SXSW earlier this year, were featured on NPR’s All Songs Considered and recently played a show at D.C.’s Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts), they absolutely should be. Though they took the stage before a sparse audience, the band held nothing back during their set last weekend.

Two of the quartet’s members serve as multi-instrumentalists, at different times picking up drum sticks, a bass or a guitar. The other two band members man keyboards and guitar, while all four contribute vocals in some capacity. Their overall sound is difficult to define, as these guys are kings of the mid-song tempo and mood change. Where one song might start off easy, it could seamlessly switch at any moment to a full-fledged rock-out, and then go back to the way it started without sounding out of place. For this The Young Rapids, mastered variety is the name of the game.

Prior to this show I was only aware of two songs from their forthcoming album (Day Light Savings, out this Friday, August 31) available on their website, and was thrilled to hear there was more where they came from. One of their most evident attributes in the recorded versions of “Discuss” and “I’m So” (which happened to be the two songs that closed the set) is the band’s unrelenting energy, which was all the more enjoyable in a live venue. They played a polished eight-song set, that highlighted their versatility and was, I hope, an indication of what’s to come on their album.

Next time they play, even if it’s raining, I suggest you don’t miss it. Their album release show is Friday, at The Dunes in Columbia Heights, 1402 Meridian Place NW.

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