Twenty years old. Twenty years old! I’m constantly reminding myself that each band member of The Districts has just completed their second decade of this planet. They’re not old enough to legally consume alcohol in the United States. They have yet to vote in a Presidential election. They’ve been driving for three, maybe four years, assuming they all have their licenses. And while they are extremely friendly and personable and even come across as unassuming and impressionable when you meet them in person, their music – from their southern rock-inspired approach to their songwriting – conceals their youth.
Whether it’s singing about long nights, the battle with the bottle, a love interest, or finding one’s way and the mastery that they exhibit in their craft, the band sounds like a band that has been around for years, even decades. However, the band was formed in 2009 by four high school friends in Lititz, Pennsylvania. The band has undergone one change with guitarist Mark Larson moving on to new projects, specifically to a post-secondary education (and we can never fault a person for working towards a degree). Robb Groteman (lead vocals, guitar), Conor Jacobus (bass), and Braden Lawrence (drums) are now joined by Pat Cassidy, who has fronted and played for fellow Pennsylvania band, Keepers.
While the affable Larson will be missed, the band hasn’t skipped a beat on their sophomore full-length and first on Fat Possum Records, “A Flourish and A Spoil”. The rocking tracks, the awesome solos, and the mature songwriting still prevail if not are heightened. The band builds on the sound they’ve perfected over the last 5+ years, which, as Grote said to me during the 2014 Ottawa Bluesfest, can be attributed to growing up in small town Lititz (population 9400) where there wasn’t much to do other than to play music or build bond fires and do what kids do.
The blazing rock music resonates on the album’s first two singles, “4th and Roebling”, about the band’s move to Philadelphia and how they’ve changed from their days in Lititz (it’s a common theme throughout the album) and “Peaches” are fantastic, epic rockers that recall the euphoria of My Morning Jacket, Drive-by Truckers, and The Futurebirds,
The album also shows the growth and evolution of the band. “Hounds” is a melodic rocker with psychedelic undertones. “Young Blood”, which they’ve played for the past few months live, is a slow burning rocker that escalates into a flurry of dueling guitars. The track demonstrates how the band is perfecting the use of pace and melodies to create music that slowly blows you away, making the listener await anxiously for the expected eruption. “Bold” is probably the one track that best exemplifies the band’s development – a brilliant track that is nearly dreamy and titillating at the start to showcase the challenges in one’s life before reaching its glorious climax. Grote’s vocals are partially angry, vulnerable, and desperate, and they give the track an unexpected soul.
On Telephone, their debut LP, the band showed a knack for slowing things down yet still rocking out. “Clorine” builds on the spirit of their stellar “Lyla” with its slower tempo mixed with the roaring vocals of Grote and the searing guitars. The foursome, though, even slow things down further with Grote taking up the acoustic guitar to tell even more personable stories. “Suburban Smell“ reveals the unsettledness of the protagonist and his desire to escape the monotony for something new and exciting. The excellent closer, “6 AM”, can be interpreted in two ways – the long days and nights of longing and wondering what was or the early mornings and the first rays of sun of a new day. For The Districts, A Flourish and A Spoil represents something exciting, a future full of opportunities, and the recognition of being known as music’s best rock bands.
A Flourish and a Spoil, which includes “Rocking Chair” from their previous album Telephone, will be released next Tuesday, February 10 by Fat Possum Records. Pre-order the album at the Fat Possum online boutique, iTunes, and Amazon. The album is streaming on NPR until Tuesday.
The band is finishing up a mini-tour today in Europe, and the North American leg of their tour commences next week. The Districts will then return to Europe for 3 weeks before returning to North America to hit the festival circuit. Tour dates are below.
12 Feb – The Sinclair – Cambridge, MA
13 Feb – Chameleon – Lancaster, PA
14 Feb – Union Transfer – Philadelphia, PA
17 Feb – Club Café –Pittsburgh, PA
18 Feb – Horseshoe Tavern – Toronto, ON
20 Feb – Lincoln Hall – Chicago, IL
21 Feb – High Noon Saloon – Madison, WI
22 Feb – 7th St Entry – Minneapolis, MN
24 Feb – Off Broadway – St. Louis, MO
25 Feb – Record Bar – Kansas City, MO
27 Feb – Larimer Lounge – Denver, CO
28 Feb – Kilby Court – Salt Lake City, UT
2 March – Doug Fir – Portland, OR
3 March – Fortune – Vancouver, BC
4 March – Tractor Tavern – Seattle, WA
6 March – The Independent – San Francisco, CA
7 March – Troubadour – Los Angeles, CA
8 March – The Casbah – San Diego, CA
10 March – Last Exit – Phoenix, AZ
11 March – Club Congress – Tuscon, AZ
13 March – The Loft – Dallas, TX
14 March – Fitzgerald’s – Houston, TX
15 March – Gasa Gasa – New Orleans, LA
16 March – Proud Larry’s – Oxford, MS
22 March – The Bottletree – Birmingham, AL
23 March – Aisle 5 – Atlanta, GA
24 March – The Grey Eagle – Asheville, NC
26 March – Local 506 – Chapel Hill, NC
27 March – Rock N Roll Hotel – Washington, DC
9 April – Rotunde – Brussels, Belgium
10 April – Motel Mozaique – Rotterdam, Netherlands
11 April – Luxor – Cologne, Germany
13 April – Uebel & Gefahrlich – Hamburg, Germany
14 April – Little Vega – Copenhagen, Denmark
17 April – B72 – Vienna, Austria
18 April – Strom – Munich, Germany
20 April – Hafenkneipe – Zurich, Switzerland
21 April – Magnolia – Milan, Italy
23 April – Zoom – Frankfurt, Germany
24 April – London Calling – Amsterdam, Netherlands
27 April – Green Door Store – Brighton, UK
29 April – Deaf Institute – Machester, UK
30 April – King Tuts – Glasgow, Scotland
2 May – Academy 2 – Dublin, Ireland
16 May – Hangout Festival- Gulf Shores, AL
5 June – Governor’s Ball – Randall’s Island Park, NYC
11-14 June – Bonnaroo Music and Arts Festival- Manchester, TN
***Cover photo by Ryan Farber
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