The ol’, hole in the wall Chameleon Club in downtown Lancaster, proved to be a perfect homecoming show for The Districts, a young band from Lititz PA, who write honest music, and are passionate about doing so. The band’s nervous excitement was evident from the start, as they were playing in front of a sold out crowd largely consisting of friends and family, including former guitarist Pat Casidy, most of whom made the mere 20 commute from hometown Lititz to Lancaster City. The Districts have made unfathomable strides for a band whose hands all had to be X’d out in Sharpie, as their all under the age of 21. Their stop in Lancaster was the third stop on their national tour, following sold out shows in New York City and Boston, and even a nationally televised appearance on Late Night With Seth Myers. Momentum was very much on their side, with a fresh new catalogue of songs to play from there much anticipated album, “A Flourish and a Spoil” release earlier this week on Fat Possum Records.
First it was another Tristate Indie Music Awards nominee, the Pine Barons, who as their name suggests made it down from the Pine Barrens of South Jersey. Their set offered high energy, and unique instrumentation, blending elements of folk rock, with an experimental psych-rock vibe.
The Districts kicked off their set with a scrappy, yet exuberant, “Peaches”, one of the few songs in which front man Rob Grote used his acoustic guitar to viscously strum out the main melody. They wasted no time jumping into an early classic, “Rocking Chair”, which the hometown crowd immediately recognized from the opening chords. The foursome combined a particularly heavy bass line with a raspy low-fi guitar tone, and Grote’s honest, “If I drink some more, then I think I might drown”, making for their signature balance of folk rock, and honest suburban garage rock. After briefly recovering from a guitar shredding, body- spinning trance, Grote took a sip of water, and intimately addressed “It’s so good to be back here playing in front of you all”. After whipping through a few new tracks, the band their true comfort and experience, was felt as they jumped into the raw, emotional “Lyla”. After Grote passionately holler’s the chorus “will we ever be…the same!”, it was newly added guitarist Pat Cassidy’s effortlessly smooth piercing solo that shined through, and lead to the whole crowd chanting “that I know, that I know!”.
One of the moments that truly summed up the night’s hometown feel was when original lead guitarist, Mark Larson, who recently left the band to pursue his higher education, rejoined his childhood friends on stage for the anthemic classic “Long Distance”. This was a song I knew would be a special to here live from the first time I’d heard the District’s. The guitar melody dropped out, and the heavy bass line and kick-drum thumped, and lead to the entire band and the sold out crowd echoing “Long Distance, slow time, is it easier?”. The band returned to their new album, “A Flourish and a Spoil”, playing the opening song, “4th and Roebling”, a passionate standout rocker that’s reminiscent of The Strokes sound, yet bled The Districts grinding garage rock tone from the Chameleon Club’s walls. Rob Grote, the 19 year old front man, then picked up his acoustic guitar, as the band stepped back, while he so genuinely sang and strummed the ballad “Suburban Smell”. It was a moment of pure musical cohesion; between hometown local hero, and audience, as the young Lancaster audience clearly resonated with lyrics such as “There’s a party at the rich kids house, but I get stoned in basements”. They continued in order of the album, following with “Bold”, a song kicked off by a hard thumping drum beat, that lead into a celebratory and climaxing guitar riff. They closed the set, with a song that truly shows the bands wisdom beyond their years, in “Funeral Beds”. Grote’s harmonica tone, Braden Lawrence’s kick-drum, and the simple, yet recognizable guitar riff, provided the framework for Grote’s infectious energy and stage presence.
With praise for an encore from the sold out crowd, it was just Rob Grote who came out to sing the final song off the new album, “6 AM”, where he purged his own personal feelings alone on stage, with heart felt lyrics like “I am scared that’s the best that I can say”. The entire band returned for the arguable standout from “A Flourish and a Spoil”, with “Young Blood”. The final track truly encapsulates the band’s suburban garage tone, and even breaks for a high energy jam reminiscent of live punk rock at CBGB, before chanting the declarative line “It’s a long way down from the top to the bottom, it’s a long way back from a high to where I am”. After what looked like an exhausting jam and prance around the stage to cap off “Young Blood” and the night itself, nearly out of breath, Grote expressed his appreciation to the packed crowd exclaiming “We missed you a lot, its good to be back”. The entire night provided a warm of a sense of local pride and loyalty, as the audience both young and old, went word for word with the band for nearly the whole set, including new tracks that had only come out several days before the show.