10/13/08 The Walkmen @ The Basement, Nashville, Tenn.

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Sometimes when I’m packing to travel, I am presented with the all too familiar quandary of fitting too many things into too small of a container. It’s a discouraging feeling sitting there looking at your small suitcase wondering, “How am I going to do this? There’s literally no way.”

Sometimes when I’m packing to travel, I am presented with the all too familiar quandary of fitting too many things into too small of a container. It’s a discouraging feeling sitting there looking at your small suitcase wondering, “How am I going to do this? There’s literally no way.” And yet somehow someway, with some serious squishing, rearranging, folding, and breaking, before you know it, you’re on your way to the airport wondering, “How did I do that?”

When a buddy of mine scored some tickets to see The Walkmen at the Basement on October 13, we figured the people-to-square-footage ratio at our favorite venue would be uncomfortably similar to the packing conundrum. Yet, it was the price that we, as well as a few hundred other Nashvillans where eager to pay as it was all smiles at the show on a muggy Nashville Monday night. After an opening set from Nashville super-group The Privates, and the dangerously infectious retro-pop of tour mates The Little Ones, The Walkmen took the stage to the ravenous delight of the anxious, sweaty masses.

Led my Hamilton Leithauser’s impassioned vocal straining and one of Rock and Roll’s gnarliest drummers, The Walkmen are infamous for putting on a mesmerizing live show, and that night the quintet certainly delivered as advertised. Their gritty American folk flavor of ghostly post-punk shook the smoke stained gig posters of weekends past that hung exhausted from The Basement’s low rafters. The shoulder-to-shoulder crowd threw their fists into the air as The Walkmen feasted on their fan’s ecstatic energy, perfectly executing songs ranging from their Bows + Arrows masterpiece of 2004 to their latest album You & Me. (released to critical acclaim this August). Unlike previous releases, the songs on You & Me are often accompanied by a small horn ensemble that wonderfully complements the album’s almost uncharacteristic somber compositions. Instead of hiring musician’s to play horns for the band on the road, the band strategically posts craigslist ads in cities on their tour, requesting horn players to come out and play with them. Their unconventional approach has been a great success and allegedly drew trumpeter phenom Ben Cauley (Otis redding, Isaac Hayes, Rufus Thomas, The Staple Singers, The Bar-Clays) to the stage in Memphis.

Before the night was over The Walkmen had one last trick up their sleeves. When their set was complete, the band left the stage, leaving everyone screaming for more songs. To the crowd’s collective surprise The Walkmen returned to the stage looking quite different. Lead man Hamilton Leithauser left his band mates smiling on the sidelines as he brought Grimey’s own Walkmen Cover band to back him up in playing, “Thinking of a Dream I Had” for what was arguably the best song of the night. Nashville’s favorite record store’s staffers had never played with Leithauser before, but had thrown a free show on August 19 to promote the new release of one of their collective favorite bands.

It seemed that Nashville was just as much a part of The Walkmen that night as . . . well, The Walkmen. Despite the . . . eh, “intimacy” of the venue it truly was a show to be savored and will without a doubt rest in the upper echelon of unbelievable shows at The Basement.

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