Live DC: The Antlers, Mr. Twin Sister @ 9:30 Club, AKA A Love Letter to The Antlers After Seeing Them Live
Disclaimer: I have wanted to see this band since I was freshly 18 and now I am freshly 21 so this might get a little emotional and fan-girly. You have been warned.
The Antlers played on Friday at the 9:30 Club (with doors opening at 6 p.m.) on the same night that Neutral Milk Hotel was playing at Merriweather. Doesn’t that sound like a recipe for concert disaster? I didn’t think that many people were going to be there, which made me sad because The Antlers are on par with Neutral Milk Hotel in talent — but obviously not fan base. However, I was pleasantly surprised with the size of the crowd. I was also not-so-pleasantly surprised with how crazy their fans can get. This is not music that gets you dancing like crazy but people still did. The magic of music (and drugs).
But let us start from the beginning. I always want to give a nod to the opening act because they have a hard job. Everyone just wants them to be over for the main act. The opening act on this particular night was Mr. Twin Sister, formerly known as Twin Sister, and they were a surprisingly great opener. Not that I doubted their musical talent — I was just distracted by the idea of seeing The Antlers right in front of my nose. The main reason they stuck in my mind: lead singer Andrea Estella, who looked like some kind of ethereal being surrounded by unassuming hipster boys. Long lavender hair, a t-shirt four sizes too large, baggy pink pants, and translucent shoes gave her the most soft grunge Harajuku girl aesthetic I’ve ever seen. And I loved it. She also had this charmingly husky singing voice that was totally unexpected. The weird indie/dream pop power ballads and saxophone solos helped, too. The only thing that ruined it: the drunk guy that kept yelling, “play “Free Bird!”” Please never do that at shows. I beg you.
On to the main event: The Antlers with their weird jellyfish LED lamps and perfectly tousled hair. They did not introduce themselves and hardly spoke to the audience. They came on stage and launched into the first three tracks from their new album, Familiars, which reminds me more of a jam band or math rock than their usual indie/dream pop sound. A lot of long guitar rifts that made you feel either sleepy or like you were floating or both. There were also some trumpets and a lot of banshee-like moaning from lead singer Peter Silberman. I say banshee in the most endearing way possible. There’s just a lot of mournful ooo-ing that wouldn’t seem out of place on the moors. It just added to the whole mystique behind this band: they barely spoke to the crowd and just sang and played their hearts out. They are a mysterious bunch.
Then they moved into the good stuff: songs from Hospice, their best album. They knew what the crowd really wanted. Or at least what I really wanted. Hospice was the first album that destroyed me emotionally and also made me truly appreciate how deeply an album can affect you. I think I listened to this album for a whole day, dissecting the lyrics instead of doing my Math 154 homework. If you prefer happy music, I wouldn’t recommend it (but I still think you should give it a listen).
Hearing these songs that have deeply affected me since I first entered college gave me goose bumps (especially since it was a weird reminder that I am leaving college soon and need to be a grown-up). The fan girl in me couldn’t help but do that annoying shriek when I heard Silberman belt the lyrics to “Sylvia” and “Kettering,” these ridiculously heart breaking songs about a failing relationship in the midst of a battle with terminal cancer. I told you, it isn’t very happy music. But it is fucking beautiful.
Experiencing The Antlers live was just a whole other experience that I cannot easily put into words. Their music has helped me through a lot through the years and I didn’t think I could love their music anymore. I was wrong. I assume I am not the only one who has loved an album so dearly but then has found an even deeper love and appreciation for it after hearing it performed right in front of me. Getting emotional, guys, sorry.
The set finished with an encore with two songs from their 2011 album Burst Apart: “I Don’t Want Love” and (one of my all-time favorite songs) “Putting the Dog to Sleep.” A pretty perfect way to end the set. People looked like they were crying. Girls were grabbing their boyfriends. Men were aggressively bobbing their heads. Random hands were thrown in the air. A girl screamed, “Play Shiva!” as if their set was not perfect enough. A young lad jumped on stage to get a set list only to be denied by the hearty 9:30 crew. There were a lot of emotions. I felt them all and felt as if I had accomplished a huge life goal.
-Mr. Twin Sister’s lead singer might be a fairy princess.
-Shouting “Play Free Bird!” at a show is one of the most obnoxious things a person could ever do.
-The Antlers are more amazing live than you could ever imagine.
-Listen to Hospice and prepare to feel things you’ve never felt before.
-Start listening to more sad music.