Travel back to the year 2007 as Charlie remembers something we’ve all done- tried to impress a girl by taking her to a show.
It was the spring of 2007 and I was living in Madison, Wisconsin. I was 17 and had recently been kicked out of my high school, as well as my parents’ house. I was living on my own, downtown, in my ex-girlfriend’s house, deep in the throes of a rather turbulent time in my life. I was spending most of my time skateboarding, eating mind-expanding drugs, and writing music. All things considered, it’s a period of time I actually look back on fondly; those were my so-called “salad days.”
Here was a girl I was pretty into at the time and, one evening, I was scouring through the show listings in the local paper to find something cool that she would be willing to attend with me. It turned out a band called the Cold War Kids were playing at The Annex (RIP) and the description of the band sold me. I called up The Girl and we made plans to go.
The Annex was a staple rock club in Madison and was located on Regent Street right behind the UW football stadium. My friends and I played loads of shows there over the years.
We arrived to find that the 300 cap room was quite full and opening act, Tokyo Police Club, were midway through their set. We got drinks and made our way to the middle of the crowd. Tokyo Police Club are a highly underrated band. Their performance was full of up-tempo, jangly indie-rock that I love and the guys looked cool to boot.
As they wrapped things up and cleared the stage, The Girl and I chatted in the center of the room and a piano driven song came over the PA system and I started paying attention. What I didn’t realize was that the music coming through the PA was actually the band on stage. I didn’t notice because it sounded so good and the lead singer was far off to the side of the stage playing the piano. The crowd reacted immediately and I began to feel that we were in for quite a treat.
After the first song, “We Used To Vacation,” they played “Hang Me Up To Dry,” which, at the time, had just gone to radio and it was apparent that the song was a banger and bound to be a hit. I was transfixed by the way the band members bobbed and bounced effortlessly across the stage, gracefully bumping into each other at times. The lead singer floated between piano and guitar the whole night and his vocal style instantly reminded me of Isaac Brock from Modest Mouse. He truly commanded the room as a frontman. Other highlights included “St. John,” where they brought out both opening acts banging on beer bottles with drum sticks to simulate the sound of an old chain gang. It was awesome- just a giant party on stage. Even though it was apparent that this was unrehearsed, every little clinky bottle and loose drum made the song sound stellar and authentic to the time period they were attempting to recreate. They played most of the first record that night and the performance was dynamic from start to finish. I was truly blown away. Their last tune, “Rubidoux,” is still one of my favorite songs.
After the show, The Girl and I both bought their LP and fell in love with it. We bonded over the show that evening and wherever The Girl may be now, I’m sure she still remembers that night as clearly as I do.
Music has the power to bond and change people and I find it a bit ironic that out of all the hundreds of shows I’ve been to over the years, my favorite was seeing a tiny indie band from L.A. in a tiny club in Madison.
I’ve stayed with Cold War Kids through all of their albums and, although the sound has changed a bit, I still think they are one of the most special bands out there. An evening that began with me trying to impress a girl, ultimately led to discovering a new favorite band and so much inspiration to apply into my own music.
Charlie Abbott is a songwriter/producer out of Nashville.
His song “Watch Me Explode” (featured below), was featured in the final scene/credits of an episode of Shameless on Showtime. It has also been streamed online nearly 40,000 times since releasing in November 2015.