Afterthoughts: 107.7 The End’s Deck the Hall Ball

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Metric at Deck the Hall Ball. Photo by Alex Crick

Radio station KNDD’s (107.7. FM) annual holiday concert, Deck the Hall Ball, delivered a nine-band, eight and a half hour marathon sampling of some of the best of what’s on the station’s airwaves. Deck is always a fun event and it is the station’s only major festival now that Endfest no longer exists due to the growth of local festivals like Capitol Hill Block Party, Sasquatch and Bumbershoot. Here are a few quick notes about this year’s Deck experience and some thoughts on the evening’s entertainment.

I’ll go on record for not realizing how big of a band The Killers have become. Their 12-song set was filled with modern classics such as “Mr. Brightside” (which started the set with the house lights on), “Smile Like You Mean It” and “Somebody Told Me.” Thankfully, the abbreviated performance didn’t include many songs from this year’s Battle Born. Frontman Brandon Flowers acted like the Vegas showman that he is, mugging to the camera, bouncing around the stage and posing for the crowd throughout the hour-long set. I had my doubts with The Killers headlining Deck since arguably bigger acts such Mumford & Sons last year and The Black Keys the year prior, but when I left KeyArena around 11:30 p.m. my doubts were removed as I realized I just watched a bona-fide stadium-filler rock a crowd of 15,00o-plus.

PHOTOS: The Killers at KeyArena

Electro-pop-rock (is that even a genre?) was well represented with M83 and Passion Pit. The latter seemed to be going through the motions and didn’t put much energy into their set but it was a set filled with catchy, enjoyable pop songs that had the crowd dancing. The set started with “Take A Walk” which had everyone on the floor pogoing up and down and closed with the one-two punch of “Sleepyhead” and “Little Secrets.” I guess when you have hits like those then I guess it’s okay if you mail it in every once in a while.

M83 on the other hand was definitely not mailing it in. Their performance was one of the highlights of the show, almost outshining The Killers. A seemingly simple, yet very cool light show made the band’s electronic rock come alive. “Midnight City,” the band’s smash hit, was the penultimate song in the set and not only did it feature the aforementioned stellar light show, a skinny dude with a saxophone rushed on stage just in time for the sax solo. I say just in time because a sax player was absent the entire set up until that point, which made me think the song’s cheesey-yet-cool sax solo was going to be pre-recorded, but skinny sax player dude came in and saved the day.

The Killers at DTHB

Metric was the band I was most looking forward to seeing and they met my expectations and then some. I’ve seen Metric play club shows and was worried the band would be swallowed alive by KeyArena’s size but that wasn’t the case. The Synthetica songs sounded loud and booming in the best way possible (especially set opener “Youth Without Youth” and the album’s title track) and cuts off Fantasies like “Gold Guns Girls” and the delicate “Gimme Sympathy” didn’t lose their energy or emotion. It was great to see a band I enjoy so much do so well in a situation where I had my doubts.

PHOTOS: Metric at Showbox SoDo

The radio festival format of a show means some bands get screwed in terms of the length of their sets and this year The Joy Formidable was that band But they did the best with what little time they had and delivered a ferocious and short 20-minute performance. The four-song set opened with “Cholla” off the group’s upcoming album Wolf’s Law, which is due in January, and it ended with a rambunctious “Whirring.” The trio brought the song to an extended close with a lengthy jam filled with crunchy guitars and drums, providing one of the most rock ‘n’ roll moment of the evening.

The folk music revival was in full force with two folk-pop outfits on the bill and both performed well. The first to take the stage was Icelandic septet Of Monsters and Men. The group’s 30-minute set, like most every set of the evening, was brief but what surprised me was the band’s full-bodied rock ‘n’  roll sound. Yes, they are a folk band and they fit the mold of the rather bland trend of folk revivalism, but their songs took on a slightly different vibe live and carried a small bit of rock swagger and bombast. It reminded me a bit of what I thought when I saw Mumford and Sons headline last year’s Deck except OMAM seemed rather indifferent towards the crowd and they didn’t appear to be having much fun. But on the plus side, their songs sounded good in an arena setting.

The Killers DTHB setlist

Denver, Colo. band The Lumineers was  the other folk-pop band on the  bill and their set was the most well-received of the night. The capacity crowd clapped, stomped and sang along to the group’s catchy brand of hoe-down folk and the band fed off the crowd’s energy. From set opener “Submarine,” to the ubiquitous “Hey Ho,” a song that  has had a presence on the Billboard charts for most of the year, the group played a solid set.

But as opposed to Of Monsters and Men before them, the folk of The Lumineers is a bit more on the country side of the spectrum and it didn’t have as much of a lasting impact on me as OMAM. The band thanked Seattle for contributing to their huge success this year, noting that Seattle was a bit of a jumping off point for their rise in popularity, and the crowd returned the love with  plenty of communal clapping, shouting and hey-ho-ing going down. And while there were no flaws in their performance (except for the poor fashion choice by the drummer, who was wearing suspenders and a belt) I still didn’t walk away a fan. I’ve tried to like The Lumineers before and it just didn’t take and that happened again this time around. I understand the appeal, but their music just isn’t for me. I’ll also say the same for Of Monsters and Men even  though I enjoyed their set more than the barnyard folk of The Lumineers.

A few additional quick thoughts:

  • KeyArena isn’t well equipped for a festival, or at least it wasn’t well equipped for this year’s DTHB. The lines at concessions stands were ridiculously long. I waited more than 45 minutes in line for food, which caused me to miss AWOL Nation’s entire set. I’m not sure why the lines were so long, and it was frustrating that KeyArena wasn’t able to properly accommodate the demand. Chances are when you’re at an eight-plus hour event you are going to want to get some food and you’re expecting to pay the extortion-level priced for food ($7 for a slice of pizza!) but the long wait in line didn’t seem necessary.
  • There was no local representation on this year’s Deck bill. The End has done plenty to support and foster the local scene so it’s no knock on the station for not booking a local band, but it was definitely disappointing to not see a Seattle band on the bill. Maybe last year’s local representation, which was Death Cab for Cutie, was a sign that the station is no longer using its big showcase events to provide exposure for smaller, local bands.
  • If you couldn’t tell, Deck the Hall Ball was a very lengthy event. It started at 3 p.m., which meant lots of people missed the first three or four bands on the bill because of school, work, traffic, odd bus schedules or some other reason. Maybe DTHB can be moved to a Saturday or a Sunday instead of a weekday so fans have a chance to see all of the bands.
Travis Hay

About Travis Hay

Travis Hay is a professional music journalist who has spent the past 13 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, Crosscut.com and others and was the founder and former editor of the defunct music site Ear Candy.