The Walkmen at Mercy Lounge, Nashville TN 9/27/09

Videos by American Songwriter

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(photos by Avalon Peacock)

As a solid unit of undeniable style and reliable function, The Walkmen seems a just name. Perhaps usurped by cooler and seemingly edgier bands – although I’m not aware of The iPods but there may well have been a band called Zune that nobody wanted – the live experience burst forth with the uncompromising gusto of the menacingly grainy video for breakthrough single “The Rat.” It was the song many came to hear and my first introduction to their sound but to reduce The Walkmen to a four minute anthem is to belittle a band of great depth, emotion and musicianship.

First up, support band Here We Go Magic managed to quickly erect a wall of sound as they stormed through a thirty minutes set. It would be easy to draw parallels with Canadian favourites Arcade Fire or the more pop friendly Hot Hot Heat but by gauging the response of a genuinely appreciative audience, they may just have what it takes to stand out from the crowd and become your new favorite band.

The congregation steadfastly waited for the headliners as the surprisingly smartly attired roadies set the stage before the lights came up. A swelling of satisfied smokers added a layer of relief from the trump of bodies in close contact as a mob of sweaty scenesters descended on the Mercy Lounge, Sunday night. From the get-go there was a tangible air of the death of the weekend, and this was a suitable final hurrah to freedom, with a diverse set that ran the gambit of nearly ten years as The Walkmen took us into Monday morning with a swagger.

At times hypnotic, as avant-garde ballads created a borderline evangelical experience, the inimitable Hamilton Leithauser screamed at the sky while wrenching at the microphone like it contained the last bolt holding the world together. The triumvirate horn section peppered the set with Calypso flair for an audience who was surprisingly reverential throughout; happy to watch on in a state of head nodding bliss while little pockets of the crowd loosened their collars to let out whoops of delight.

An encore of “The Rat” provided suitable proof that raw garage rock could never die, as Paul Marrick thundered on the drums with the restless energy of a hyperactive child gorging on a bag of sugar, while Paul Maroon struck a stance of sheer bravado to rip through the guitar with punk rock pomp. After pleading for more, the baying crowd had got what they wanted as the first mass sing-a-long of the evening put smiles on faces all around.

I left feeling happy. I left with a T-shirt. I left knowing that I’ll be listening to The Walkmen for years to come while, for purely selfish reasons, I’m glad they continue to duck under the radar of the mainstream success they undoubtedly deserve.

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