Once the bubble bursts, it is nearly impossible to recapture what was there before.
Walk the Moon’s bubble burst about two years ago, when “Anna Sun” became an unexpected hit and the Ohio-bred band went from waiting for its big break to seeing it unfold before its eyes. The band members toured across the country and through Europe, along the way becoming alt pop radio mainstays.
Booking a Columbus show at the relatively small venue The Basement might have been the band’s way of rediscovering its roots, but there is nothing like quickly selling out a gig to remind you that there are more people who want to hear your music than can cram into the armpit of Lifestyle Communities Pavilion. (I say that lovingly. All the best dive bar venues resemble an armpit in some way.)
The Basement was as crowded Tuesday night as I have ever seen it, packed to the rafters with an age-diverse crowd. There were huge turnouts from three different generations, as high school kids, mostly girls, ruled the pit. A safe distance away stood the college-aged and 20-somethings, the crowd members who didn’t need a fake ID to order a beer. And a third, older group of men and women, not quite old enough to be the parents of the high schoolers, also took in the show.
Fellow Cincinnati band Public opened, boasting a less synthy version of Walk the Moon’s sound — and it pulled it off almost as well as the headliner. The band is one hit away from being on level ground with their fellow Ohioans, though I would argue that they might not be able to top their own cover of Britney Spears’ “Toxic.”
The crowd, packed shoulder to shoulder, was practically in a frenzy by the time the four members of Walk the Moon appeared on stage and ripped into their hit “Tightrope.”
From that point on, the show became a full on assault of bouncy, catchy, jangly guitar-led pop songs. “Down in the Dumps” sounded like Sting found Gary Numan’s synthesizer, and “Spend Your Money” lyrically attacked superficiality.
I had not been sold on the idea of playing the show at The Basement through the first half of the set, but one song that came about halfway through changed that. “Lisa Baby” is monstrous on record, but when performed live, it brought that energy from one corner of the room to the other. The crowd had been moving up to this point, but this song is when they started grooving. I realized most people who had scored the limited tickets to the show were diehard fans; everyone around me sung along to almost every word.
Their latest single, “Shut Up and Dance,” followed and prompted the crowd to do the latter.
This show seemed like a celebration of sorts for the band, a chance to look back at all they have accomplished. When he introduced “I Can Lift a Car,” singer Nicholas Petricca reminisced that a few years prior they opened a show at The Basement for a band that now can only dream of Walk the Moon’s success. The day after that gig, the band drove back to Cincinnati to have a release party for their new single “Anna Sun.”
“And that’s how this all started,” Petricca said.
Enough time had passed since it was popular that I had forgotten how great of a song “Anna Sun” is. The rest of the crowd might not have forgotten, because when the band launched into the song to close their set, it brought everyone lucky enough to be there together one more time.
Bands like Walk the Moon are often criticized for a lack of substance — in many circles, alt pop is almost as bad as pop. But I challenge anyone to see this band live, especially in the presence of diehard fans like Tuesday night’s crowd and not come away with a newfound respect for them — and perhaps, even a new favorite song.