Last Sunday, the Santa Barbara Bowl hosted a number of alternative rock’s hippest musicians at this year’s sold-out Summer Round-Up, including area indie-pop band The Blues and Greys, Family of the Year, Walk the Moon, Banks, and headliners Of Monsters and Men.
The five-hour show kicked off at 5 p.m. with a brief and unfortunately low attended set from The Blues and Greys, followed shortly after by indie-folk band Family of the Year. While it would have been nice to see more songs from these two groups, as it seemed like they were just warming up as each of their sets finished, the bands were on a tight but efficient schedule. Nevertheless, both bands sounded just as good live as they do on record, and they brought the first wave of energy to a previously low-key audience.
Walk the Moon stormed the stage shortly after at 6:45 p.m. to the tune of The Lion King’s “Circle of Life,” eliciting an uproar from the crowd of face-painted millennials on the ground floor. Once they were certain they’d captured the audience’s attention, the band launched into their first single, “Anna Sun,” which the fans greeted with enthusiasm. Beaming with pride, lead singer Nicholas Petricca shouted “I don’t know if you all came here to dance, but we certainly did!” After a cover of The Killers’s “All These Things I’ve Done,” which sounded unfortunately similar to a karaoke rendition, the band finished their 40-minute set with their newest hit and unofficial anthem “Shut Up and Dance.”
By the time Banks’s set began at 7:45 p.m., the sun was setting and the Bowl was packed with showgoers. The 26-year-old neo-goth artist started her show off much slower than the previous act. Her first song, “Alibi” wasn’t energetic enough on its own to get the audience going. While her soulful vocals were terrific live, her onstage presence was lacking. Clad in all black and heels too high for the singer to dance in, Banks mostly bent up and down at the knees and kept her elbows tight to her waist rather than getting into her own show. Her shyness seemed to wear off by the performance of her “Beggin for Thread,” but the single was her last song of the night.
Last but certainly not least came headliners Of Monsters and Men. In addition to the band’s usual five members, four more took the stage for their set. Unafraid to use their epic storytelling and fantastical elements onstage, the Icelandic band kicked into their show with smoke, an elaborate light show, and lyrically dramatic music performed by all nine of the musicians. But the dazzling light display–at times gorgeous and at times blinding–distracted from what the band was doing onstage, which was upsetting, given just how much was happening there. The two lead singers harmonized with their vocals and guitars while dancing toward the crowd, trumpet solos ensued, and loads of unreleased music was revealed. “This album isn’t out yet…so these songs are between us,” joked singer Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir to the crowd.
While their new music was well-received, the audience roared along to “King and Lionheart” and “Mountain Sound” off their most recent release, My Head Is An Animal. Although I was a bit disappointed the band didn’t play “Dirty Paws,” their grandiose performance left me—and the rest of the concertgoers–pleasantly sated. At least until their next album drops in June!