Friday night Philadelphia-based The War on Drugs played a set of spaced out rock and roll at Flying M Coffeegarage in Nampa.
Carter Tanton opened the show with a brief set of ambient wall-of-sound guitar music. His three-piece band created textural, melodic noise rock that was a good palate cleanser for the bands that followed. Purling Hiss ripped through a set of loud, '70s-style blues rock. Guitarist Mike Polizze showed off his chops with a series of shredding finger-tapped and whammy-bar bending solos that made ears ring.
In fact, ears were ringing all night. At the entrance to the venue the ticket checker handed out foam ear buds. Shortly into Carter Tanton's set, the reason for the free handouts became apparent. Garage's don't provide the best sound insulation. Noise was bouncing off the walls creating intense decibel levels all night. It was almost impossible to listen to the show without the ear plugs, which was frustrating for music fans who prefer to hear the entire range of frequencies coming from the stage.
Despite the sound issues, The War on Drugs managed to deliver a superb set. The band's sound is something like a shoegaze-laced cross between Tom Petty and Bruce Springsteen. It mostly stuck to material from the recently released Slave Ambient, but also brought out songs from its earlier records. "Your Love is Calling My Name" and "Baby Missiles" in particular were standouts from the night, with their driving rhythms, hazy sonics, and gleaming guitar work. There were a couple of times throughout the night when the songs broke down into cacophonous space jams that went on for a minute or two before bleeding into the next song. The band was masterful at developing large spacey atmospherics at the beginning of its songs that would recede into the backdrop during the song proper, before getting fleshed out again and expanded upon at the end of the song. Aside from the dense sonics, lead singer/guitarist Adam Granduciel is a talented song writer and his band is full of talented musicians, so much so, that they managed to keep the attention of a booze-less and ear-plugged audience until the music stopped at around midnight.