Rio Hondo College Newspaper

El Paisano

Rio Hondo College Newspaper

El Paisano

Rio Hondo College Newspaper

El Paisano

Second wind on the Miracle Mile

Every level of the semi-circular auditorium, including the balcony that sat high above the dimly-lit stage, was filled to the brim with a tangled mess of agitated, anxious, and impassioned fans.

This wasn’t your average, underground venue with your dime-a-dozen local band.

The Observatory on Nov. 8 was pulsating with the kind of energy you’d expect only larger artists to garner, but what Long Beach born Cold War Kids lacked in media prestige, they made up with heart-wrenching, ear-seducing, and soul-afflicting good music.

Since 2004, the release of four spectacluar albums with arguably the best lrycists and blues-rock guitar players in Southern California at the forefront, has earned Cold War Kids a following that has leaked out beyond the suburbs of their hometown.

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After an extended delay, the crowd was rewarded with the psychedelic, surfer-rock quintet, The Hindu Pirates.

Playing a variety of songs that ranged from groove-funk and danceable melodies,   to a Beach Boys-esque sound—all with a healthy dose of synth—the headliners dominated the stage and offered a refreshing contrast to what would be a rock-filled night.

Opening with the base-heavy “Loner Phase,” bassist Matt Maust reeled in the frenzied crowds and set the mellow, rolling tone with the song’s deep melodies.

Nathan Willett then stepped over to pour his soothing vocals over the crowd; the sheer, raw cadence of Willet’s euphonious voice rang true and he sounded thousands of times better than on studio releases.

High-energy performances may be part and parcel of the rock genre, but the band’s ability to switch gears from, say, the melancholy, piano accompanied intones of “Tuxedos,” to the guitar shredding cacophony of “Hang Me Up to Dry,” allowed for little down time and kept the audience energized for the two hour performance.

Mosh-pits quickly formed, and were not only contained to the areas directly in front of the stage. Crowd surfers dotted the pits, phone lights flashed, and then Cold War Kids decided to up the ante.

As soon as the melodious tune of the piano from the intro of “Miracle Mile” began, hands across the sea of faces shot towards the ceiling—while Willett’s own fingers danced beautifully across the ivory.

“I was supposed to do great things, I know the road is long. But I wasn’t raised to shoot for fame, I had the safety on,” Willett sang passionatley on the piano.

They followed up with a brief visit to their “Mine is Yours” album, playing the bluesy “Royal Blue” and “Louder Than Ever.”

Every voice echoed the cold, aching lyrics of “We Used to Vacation,” and it was hard not to shake your fist in the air to the soulful beat of “Audience.”

Onstage, the band’s presence was one of playful zeal and fervidity.

Guitarist Jonnie Russell and Maust spent the entire performance dancing on every inch of the wooden stage, standing on speakers to tower over the crowd and even kneeling right in front of them.

The audience was addicted, so it comes as no surprise that when the band walked off-stage after their last song, “Cold War Kids” was chanted for what seemed like an eternity in the hopes of an encore.

When Willett walked back onstage and sat at the piano—amidst screams of approval— he started to talk about the band as if to a close friend.

Humbly thanking and reminding the crazed group that the only reason they’d made it this far was because of fans like them, he began to explain his own nostalgia.

He talked about streets in Whittier, Long Beach, La Habra—streets he and his band mates, and much of the crowd, had spent their childhoods on.

Tickling the ivory one last time at The Observatory, Willett sang acappella a ballad of their song, “Bottled Affection,” a tune he said when he first sang it at that same venue, he’d felt so nervous to do.

So he asked us in tribute to the start and end of their tour—to sing with him.

For a few minutes the building was filled with the voices of hundreds of people singing the sentimental words, “Alright, stay, you got my attention./All my pain is bottled affection.”

The intimacy was astounding; a bridge, founded on similar understandings and experiences from growing up in the same cities, was built between Willett and us, the audience.

As his voice faded—and I like so many others tried in vain to hold the note as long as him—the affection between artist and audience was uncorked.

Reluctantly exiting the venue, I was surprised to find Willett and Maust outside, greeting and taking photos with fans who were lucky enough to spot them.

“This is it,” Willett said smiling, “I’m really glad we were able to end it here.”

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