Atlanta’s Snowden showed a softer, even more Anglophile side at New York’s Roseland Ballroom on June 5th, but they did not fail to win over Roseland’s more rock ‘n’ roll crowd. Opening for fellow sons of the south, Kings of Leon, Snowden did not rely on their more hard-hitting tunes, but instead delved straight into their more expansive, even slightly indietronic sound. And the massive audience of devoted fans of the Kings’ southern-fried indie-rock was right there with them.
With the name ‘Snowden’, one might be forgiven for thinking that the band is actually from the U.K., considering all the Anglo-Celtic connotations in the name – the single “Snowden” by England’s The Doves, Snowdon, the highest mountain in Wales, the Scotch-Irish alt-rockers Snow Patrol… even the first Labour Chancellor of the Exchequer, Viscount Phillip Snowden (the band actually takes their name from a character in Joseph Heller’s quintessentially American novel, Catch-22). On their debut LP, last year’s Anti-Anti, there were definite indie-Brit stylings in the band’s slightly lappop beats, encompassing guitars, and singer Jordan Jeffares’ high, melodic vocals. And at Roseland Ballroom (QRO venue review), Snowden largely picked Anti-Anti tracks that reflected this.
Curiously, the first two songs of the set, “Like Bullets” and “Filler Is Wasted”, were perhaps those that least fit into this approach. “Bullets”, Anti-Anti’s opener, lead off the set with some strong, dark bass and drums, while “Filler” delivered a powerful distorted guitar on a more rocking beat. But nowhere in the set were there Anti-Anti’s ironic-rock “Counterfeit Rules” or evocative cry, “Stop Your Bleeding”. Instead, Snowden followed “Filler” with the much slower, much more melancholy “Innocent Heathen”, and stayed in a less straightforwardly rock vein from there on in.
This is not, however, to say that it was a bad choice. The ‘sad song about a sad girl’, “Innocent Heathen”, is easily one of the strongest and most memorable pieces on the strong and memorable Anti-Anti, and washed over the audience well, with its emotion ringing true – no one in the crowd could hear the line, “She doesn’t mind to take her clothes off” and interpret it as anything but tragic. Snowden slipped a bit with the next song, “Good News” (from their first, self-titled EP), similar to “Heathen” though not quite as downbeat, but the piece served as a good bridge to Anti-Anti’s much more upbeat title track. A winning mix of indie-rock and indie-electronica, the anthemistic quality of “Anti-Anti” serves it well as the theme of the eponymous record, and likewise as the band’s theme for the night. The dark dancetronic “Kill the Power” was more driving than upbeat, but kept the “Anti” thread going into “Black Eyes”, which took the sound of “Power”, added more distorted guitars, and married it to the sadness of “Heathen”, making it perhaps the most representative song of the evening. “Victim Card” ended the set, with its raw poignancy returning to the straight sadness of “Heathen”.
As impressive and affecting as Snowden’s set was, what was maybe more impressive and affecting was how much it impressed and affected the crowd. Kings of Leon’s ‘indie-Skynyrd’ rock doesn’t draw the usual hipsters, with instead a mix of young rock fans and more straight-up rock fans. But, instead of trotting out their most rock ‘n’ roll numbers, Snowden challenged the audience with a softer, echoing line-up of songs, from moody dance to heartrending tragedy. And Roseland Ballroom loved it.