The music industry has evolved at lightspeed during this pandemic lockdown, which has unfortunately meant lots of extinctions (your favorite club won’t reopen; your favorite indie band is broke), but also some serious steps forward into the world we live in now. Livestreaming has gone from shaky iPhone Instagram solo performances in the bathroom to big, professional productions, with many cameras & a great soundsystem. It’s also moved from free to benefit to ticketed, because all those cameras & mikes aren’t cheap. October has seen the livestream fully come into its own, like Cold War Kids did on Saturday, October 10th, as they played their breakthrough 2006 debut Robbers & Cowards in full.
Cold War Kids have always lived a bit in the shadow of Robbers, still their best-known work with many of their most-loved songs, a powerful piece of soul-blues that came out when the rock revival at the start of this century/millennium was still in flush. Indeed, in the parking lot outside of their studio at the start of the livestream, singer Nathan Willett remarked that he never liked the now-common practice of bands doing tours playing their old, best-known album in full, and always wants to be looking forward. Yet by the end of the set, he closed with, “Remember what we said about never being a nostalgia act that tours its first record? We’ll go back on that, easily…”
The powerful, but stark, songs on Robbers did lend themselves to the set-up, which was full-on livestream. Taking place at the band’s large, hangar-like studio in Long Beach, CA, the whole event felt like you were just sitting in on the band playing amongst themselves, yet had the look of a professional live music video. Multiple cameras, excellent shifts between them, strong sound, and nice lighting that didn’t get in the way of things. Willett did mention the single lightbulb hanging down, bare – note: not the only lighting for the performance – as it reminded him of dank, dark clubs from the early days that used flashlights.
Other than previously mentioned, there was almost no between-song chatter. Indeed, you could hear the camera & sound people talking sometimes, giving the event almost a ‘making of’ feel. While it would have been nice to get some stories about the old days (though only Willett and bassist Matt Maust remain from then), as artists often do when playing an old album in full, the quiet between each song, in the big empty space, without an audience, had its own kind of power.
Any fan of Cold War Kids knows all the great songs on Robbers & Cowards (or “Robbers & COVID” as Maust joked at the start), from opener “We Used To Vacation” to the secret track closer “Lord Have Mercy” (it was 2006, when secret tracks – and CDs – were still a thing), which Willett did solo acoustic. And if the band doesn’t look as young as they did in the long-ago video for “Hang Me Out To Dry”, the event did have the cinematic feel of that Italian black-and-white inspired video. It was great to hear not only hear ‘the hits’ like “Vacation”, “Dry”, “Saint John”, and “Hospital Beds”, but also rarely-played-live songs such as “Rubidoux” (a favorite in the chat) and “Sermons vs The Gospel”.
We’re all still finding our way, even these many months deep into our worldwide crisis, but we’re also all figuring it out. Cold War Kids delivered a unique and intimate performance, right there on the device of your choice.
Cold War Kids will be doing three more livestreams, Saturdays at 6:00 PM PST/9:00 PM EST:
11/8/20 – Festival Set
“Your sweaty, outdoor, bang-bang, no time to slow down show. All the songs you know and love.”
11/22/20 – Deep Cuts & Fan Favorites
“In the dark club, let’s get close up and intimate. Head back, eyes closed, go all the places and feel all the feelings.”
And all four performances will be archived, accessible & re-accessible, through November 29th.