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After a week of frigid winter weather, the Cincinnati-based band Walk the Moon provided Boston with a much-needed burst of color. Fans of all ages braved the cold to hear them play a sold out show at the Paradise Rock Club, and they were rewarded with hours of pure indie-rock fun. Opening for them was Pacific Air, a feel-good alt-rock band who successfully pumped the crowd up for Walk the Moon.
The song a band chooses to play while walking on stage can tell you a lot about how they see themselves. So what did Walk the Moon choose? The Willy Wonka theme song. As ridiculous as that may sound, their choice could not have been more perfect. The members who make up Walk the Moon (Nicholas Petricca, Kevin Ray, Sean Waugaman, and Eli Maiman) are all in a way Willy Wonkas themselves. The visual aspect of their music is beautifully optimistic and playful, while their lyrics occasionally deal with complex themes. It is in this juxtaposition between childishness and seriousness that Walk the Moon finds meaning. When talking to the band before the show, lead singer and keyboard player Petricca explained his perspective: “A vibe we often go for is in between being a kid and being an adult. It’s something we’re all kind of going through currently and people even go through their whole lives. I think its that in-between place that we try to get at with a combination of musical vibes.”
Much of the show seemed like a celebration of that “in-between place.” Audience members painted streaks of color across their cheeks and foreheads with facepaint provided free at the merch table, and when the band appeared onstage playing the first song of their set, “The Liftaway,” everyone immediately started dancing. The band seemed to be radiating an infectious energy, jumping and dancing around the stage, but they claim it’s really the audience’s energy they feed off. Petricca explains, “In performance, a lot of it comes from the audience. Even if we get sick of playing a song, I’ve never gotten sick of performing it and getting the reaction from the audience, especially when it hopefully means something to them.” Drummer Sean Waugaman agrees, saying, “Really, it’s always the audience keeping us fresh.” In keeping with this perspective, the band incorporated the audience into several songs during their set. During “Me and All My Friends,” Petricca asked the audience to sing the line “come on over now” repeatedly throughout the song, and of course the audience participated with enthusiasm. Before playing their new song “Tightrope,” Petricca told the audience the goal of the night was to give everyone the opportunity to be themselves, especially if that means to make a fool of themselves. This is really what Walk the Moon is all about: getting in touch with your inner child and finding release in just letting yourself have fun.
Walk the Moon’s latest EP Tightrope was released this week, but their self-titled sophomore record came out in June 2012. It was their first time working with producer Ben Allen, who has worked with many successful artists, including M.I.A., Christina Aguilera, and even Puff Daddy. “Ben was really good at getting the right sound to make the recorded version sound like the live version, making it huge and epic,” Petricca explained. “He captured the live energy.” He goes on to explain the band’s writing process. “Its different every time. I pretty much write the lyrics but the music is highly collaborative.”
“Iscariot” is a song off their latest album that stands out from the rest of Walk the Moon’s work. They performed it toward the end of the concert, turning the lights low and taking a moment to stop the dance party, letting the music stand alone. It has a slow, haunting melody and melancholy lyrics. When asked about the meaning behind the lyrics, Petricca responded, “That’s a song that I wrote for my senior thesis in college… the meaning is wrapped up in a personal experience, falling out with a close friend. But it’s a lot about healing from that experience and letting go.” The song provided a rare moment in the concert when that Willy Wonka innocence was replaced with the challenges of growing up and confronting hardship. However, as soon as they finished the band quickly transitioned into “Jenny,” an upbeat crowd favorite.
Of course, no Walk the Moon concert would be complete without their massively popular song “Anna Sun.” The song was one of the biggest hits of the summer and has earned the band lots of attention from radio stations, magazines, and even television. When asked if fans should be worried their rise to fame might change who they are, everyone in the band was quick to say they are remaining true to themselves. Petricca answered, “I don’t think we’ve done anything to indicate we’re changing who we are. Being on a major label is a little scary for us too, but so far RCA has kept their fingers out of the music and let us do more of what we were doing before. We can bring them more Walk the Moon then we ever did before.”
Walk the Moon will be touring the US and Europe through March. If you need a cure for the winter blues, this band is definitely the one to listen to. At the end of the night, Walk the Moon left everyone in the audience feeling optimistic and ready to face the cold again.