DECK THE HALL BALL 2009
Review by Virginia Eader
Photos by Nate Watters
I received notice of my coverage of the 2009 Deck the Hall Ball mere hours before the opening act. With much anticipation, I slipped out of work early to catch the bus home, eat a quick PB&J, grab my trusty notebook and pen, and head out the door. I knew at the time that this annual event put on by 107.7 The End was a pretty big deal but I did not fully realize what I would be experiencing later that night. As a newbie to the Seattle area, this was my first time venturing into the massive venue of the WaMu Theater. The show had been sold out for weeks and the place was packed.
The opening band could not have been better selected. Seattle’s own, Visqueen set the stage with female power vocals, the world’s most energetic and smiley bass player, and a mysteriously bad ass cello player in the dark shadows of the stage. The band had great sound and a close connection with the audience. Even as a new Seattleite I felt a little more at home.
Vampire Weekend was up next. I admit, I (l-o-v-e) love this band. Of all the bands in the lineup these guys are the reason I was stoked to be there. When I bought their first album over a year ago it stayed in my car stereo for a few weeks straight. I learned every word of every song and I was about to be graced by their presence. And graced I was. Ezra Koenig sang with both passion as well as the expected cuteness of oooohhhhs and uuhhhhhs and emphatic hand gestures. While bassist, Chris Baio, danced his little feet off all night. The crowd went from a sea of calm to a sea of dancing fits. There was one point in the set when even the drummer, Chris Tomson, got off from the riser to join in on the dance fest. Call me a complete nerd but the drum beats in “Cape Cod Kwassa Kwassa” (aka the Louis Vuitton song) sounded exactly like the congo rhythm featured in Donkey Kong County for Super Nintendo. The last song of their set, “Walcott”, gets my personal Killer Keys Award for being the best keys solo of the evening. When you see it live you realize how much work the keyboardist puts in.
After eating an outrageously overpriced $300 hotdog from the concession stand I was prepared to give a listen to a band I’ve heard a lot of buzz about in the media- Phoenix. These four dudes from France have since become one of the best live bands I have ever seen. Their first song- with captivating vocals, quick snare beats, heavy bass, and flashing strobe lights was performed so well that it could have been their final encore. But by the sound of the crowd, we all wanted much more. Their performance was well choreographed with each member moving up and down the stage like a well-oiled machine. Vocalist, Thomas Mars, mesmerized the audience with his every word. I found myself getting lost in the music and as I snapped back into reality I saw those around me in the same trance. They finished their set with their radio hit, “1901”. The song I like to refer to as “Ballin’, Ballin’, Ballin’” (It’s actually Fallin’ Fallin’ Fallin’) At the first note of the song the crowd moved in even closer and more intimate with the stage. Everyone was dancing and singing louder than before. Mars gradually became part of the crowd and by the end of the song he had surfed over several thousand bodies to the end of floor pit and ran his way back up to the stage. Security started to go after him until they realized who he was. If that’s not pure rock star- I don’t know what is.
I learned something new tonight. Metric is fronted by Emily Haines (of Emily Haines and the Soft Skeletons). Metric, to me, is a kind of dance remix of Emily’s solo stuff. Wow, do they put on a show. Emily strutted to the front of the stage- her porcelain skin and white hair adorned by a silver sequined dress- and the crowd went wild. Her powerful voice accompanied by the mix of a synthesizer, heavy bass, and dancey drum beats. Emily played a serious tambourine in the radio hit “I Tremble”, which featured vocal reverb echo and computerized sound effects. Full of energy- she performed her best robotic jazzercise moves. I thought to myself that a workout video featuring Metric could be highly profitable. The set ended with the catchy tune of “Stadium Love” where a group of tween girls danced and jumped uncontrollably in front of me. I could just hear them thinking “I want to BE her!”
Waiting for 30 Seconds to Mars to set foot onstage felt like waiting for something as important as the Lord descending to earth from heaven. The intro music depicted the sound of a thousand mighty warriors chanting battle cries in preparation for a bloody battle. As Jared Leto took the stage the audience was in complete awe. Within a few seconds he had them jumping up and down, clapping their hands, and clinging to his every word. He could have told them all to jump off Aurora Bridge after the show and they would have done it.
Other than hearing their songs on the radio on occasion, I admittedly haven’t listened to much of Muse nor have I followed their rise to rock-stardom. I read recently that Muse sold out a 90,000 capacity show in just 10 minutes. Ninety thousand people in TEN minutes! I found it pretty hard to imagine that. But after tonight, I think I could see it a little more probable. I’m making this claim based on the thousand or so people sporting Muse t-shirts, hoodies, patches, etc. (I even ran into a group of high school kids that had made their own Muse shirts with puffy paint.) And the anticipation and impatience of the crowd shouting several rounds of “MUSE, MUSE MUSE” chants. They couldn’t take it anymore. Sure, the last five bands had been great- but really- they were just a means to an end. I’ve been to some decent shows in my lifetime but no other show tops the devotion of the fans I witnessed tonight. In terms of the band’s complexity, if tonight’s lineup were ranked by difficulty in the game Rock Band, Muse would be ranked the most intense level of extreme difficulty. (And to think that the band is made up of just three guys.) Each of their songs featured challenging variations of instrumental intros, insane guitar solos, and drum fills that could wake my grandmother from her grave. Their stage performance reflected their sheer talent as musicians as well as their passion for the music. At the risk of sounding completely cliche- Muse totally ROCKED the house.
One can only hope that next year’s Deck the Hall lineup comes even close to comparing to tonight’s diverse showcase of some of the most up and coming bands of our time with the sheer talent, hard work, and devotion of musicians who are creating art, influencing millions and living their dream. And who knows, maybe next year the hotdogs will only cost $250.00??
~see more of Nate Watters’ photos of Deck the Hall Ball here.~