Afterthoughts: 107.7 The End’s Deck the Hall Ball

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Foster the People at Deck the Hall Ball 2011. Photo by Alex Crick

A few observations from the night’s Dek the Hall Ball:

It’s a marathon not a sprint. The six-band bill played out like a mini festival inside of an arena. This year’s DTHB lasted more than seven hours. Fortunately the show continued to get better as the night progressed (except for the Death Cab lull, more on that later) otherwise it would have been a really long night.

The End would like you to know it’s a Seattle institution. And rightfully so since the station has been broadcasting on local airwaves since 1991. The End brought in a few special guests of local importance to introduce bands and while this wasn’t the intent, it felt like the intros acted as a bit of a reminder of the station’s connection with Seattle. Jamie Moyer and Rainn Wilson appeared via pre-recorded video and Phoenix Jones and Kasey Keller appeared in person. End Session performances of Deck the Hall Ball bands were shown on video screens between bands as well which was a nice touch as they beat the hell out of being subjected to commercials from corporate sponsors.

Mumford & Sons is a stadium ready folk band: At first I was puzzled about why the Grammy-nominated group was pegged to headline over hometown favorites (and fellow Grammy nominees) Death Cab for Cutie, but two songs into their set it became apparent why they topped the bill. The band’s energy and stage presence is quite impressive and the crowd pretty much went berzerk for every song. As an added bonus they came packing a snazzy light set up and the band really diversifies its instrumentation. Accordion, mandolin, banjo and a three-piece horn section were highlighted. If I had to compare the energy of their stage show to another modern band it would have to be Arcade Fire. Yeah, it’s that good of a live show. Also, Mumford has a lot of sons. At one point I counted nine members of Mumford & sons on stage.

Foster the People have the potential to be huge. When Foster the People played a packed High Dive back in March of this year, before their debut record Torches was released, it was clear that they would be playing bigger rooms sooner rather than later but I don’t think anyone who was there that early spring night would have predicted it would be this soon. Foster the People sounded massive with each bass drum thump and guitar note filling the sold-out KeyArena with authority. Match that with the group’s catchy and dance-friendly songs and the big smiles and congenial attitude of the band and you’ve got yourself a good time.

Death Cab was kind of boring. The band sounded great and the set list contained most of the expected songs — “The New Year,” “I Will Possess Your Heart,” etc. — but Ben Gibbard and his cohorts were a bit of a downer after the jolt of rock ‘n’ roll that was Cage the Elephant. Regardless of the downward turn in the show’s momentum, the hometown crowd sang along to every song and seemed happy to have some Death Cab for the holidays. Also, Gibbard now has a beard.

Cage the Elephant is one of rock radio’s last great hopes. Performing after Foster the People’s dance party of a set was no easy task but Cage the Elephant came out with all cylniders firing and notched thing up to 11 with a blast of rock ‘n’ roll that provided one of the most entertaining sets of the night. Frontman Matthew Shulz stage dove multiple times, flailed his body around the stage and delivered the most rock ‘n’ roll set of the show.  Cage the Elephant was fun to watch and after their set ended it was hard to not question why they aren’t playing big rooms on a regular basis.

Travis Hay

About Travis Hay

Travis Hay is a professional music journalist who has spent the past 14 years documenting and enjoying Seattle's diverse music scene. In 2009 he established Guerrilla Candy and is currently the site's editor and publisher. He has written for various media outlets including MSN Music, the Seattle-Post Intelligencer, Seattle Weekly, and others and was the founder and editor of defunct music site Ear Candy.