Glass Animals put on a great show at Earl Warren on Sunday, September 20, but what many will remember more than their show is the wait to see the band. In the bloated heat of the night, the line to get into the venue sluggishly snaked at the average pace of an hour-plus waiting time for an exasperated many.
With 1,800 in attendance, it’s possible the sudden surge of attendees was more than show organizers Red Eye Presents, Music Is Love, and The Goodland Hotel had anticipated; they would do well to post an earlier door time for future events. But it’s also a sign of other, larger trends in music. As every scene becomes Coachella-fied, the demand for massive events falls upon towns lacking appropriate venues or crowd management precedents. Securities, too, have tightened. As a wearied officer explained to those in line, thorough searches like these happen because of past tragedies, like when an 18-year-old girl fatally overdosed on heroin at a previous concert he had guarded. “Don’t do drugs tonight,” he insisted.
The headliners were pushed to a start time of 11 p.m., dulling some buzzes. But there was a bright side: the fuse of tension exploded into a lively show. No doubt the long buildup fueled them, too. “Thank you for waiting, Santa Barbara,” lead singer Dave Bayley said. “We promise to play our hearts out.”
And they did. Though understandably not everyone had the patience or stamina to wait to see them — a two-hour wait is pretty egregious — those who did were rewarded. Glass Animals are a better band live than on record. While slightly akin to the nocturnal electro-pop of The XX in the studio, on the stage they are closer to a Radiohead, with polyrhythms pulsing and pounding under lush and dark atmospheres. The band, in their potent energy and dazzling lights, are carrying on the inventive electronic rock of their fellow countrymen, and Bayley even seems to be continuing the great Thom Yorke lineage of emotional stage dance flailing.
Glass Animals played pumped-up and prettier versions of Zaba tracks, and highlights were many. “Black Mambo” and main set closer “Wyrd” were deeper and stronger than their more restrained recorded renditions. Not one but two or three girls attempted to bum rush the stage, including one who challenged Bayley to a dance contest during “Walla Walla” (she was, unfortunately, not obliged.)
The band even played a pair of covers: the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’ “Gold Lion” and, surprisingly, Kanye West’s “Love Lockdown.” As the night went on, it felt more and more like we had been teleported to the bands’ 2015 Coachella set, all of us stuffed, stifled, and sweating against the barricades.
The best song of the night, though, was early on, when the band played “Gooey.” The mercury jumped noticeably as the crowd sang in unison: “I can’t take this place, no I can’t take this place / I just wanna go where I can get some space.” A plea for breathing room in the Earl Warren, maybe, but something more beautiful too — a crowd of classmates dancing, giddy, and ecstatic under a shared groove. People went home shirtless, sweating, and smiling. Songs like these are worth the wait.