Cold War Kids keep music down to Earth at Observatory

Shilah Montiel | Daily 49er

Nathan Willett performs at the Observatory on Thursday night with the Cold War Kids.

Angela Ratzlaff, News Editor

The stars on view at the Observatory Thursday night were not flaming spheres of plasma; rather, they were five Los Angeles natives playing American root-driven music – the Cold War Kids.

After blue-hued lights illuminated the stage and smoke from the fog machine filled the room, the Cold War Kids appeared. Drummer Matt Aveiro cued in bassist Matt Maust, vocalist Nathan Willett and guitarist Dann Gallucci with soft, rolling drum fills before the band kicked the show into high gear.

The group performed new songs from their album “Dear Miss Lonelyhearts,” which is set to be released on April 2, while hashing out some old favorites.

“It’s a matter of trying to play a whole lot of new songs and old songs and trying to juggle them around,” Willett said. “[Playing new material] is one of those things where it’s pretty easy right now.”

Willett said that new additions to the band include guitarist Gallucci, who has worked as a live engineer for the group before joining as a permanent member after original guitarist Jonathon Russell left last year. Although Russell’s dynamic guitar style and vocals were missing from the live performance, the classic Cold War Kids sound stayed intact with swimming surf guitar riffs, fill-based drums and heavy bottomed bass.

The new material felt natural after working on the album in their San Pedro studio and playing several live shows in the past year, Maust said.

“Tonight was the first night where it felt really, really like we know these songs live. You play them for months and months in the studio, but [when] you play them in front of people, it’s a little hard,” he said. “Tonight was great.”

Songs like “Tuxedos” and their latest single “Miracle Mile,” which are both featured on “Dear Miss Lonelyhearts,” channeled the blues and soul, which the group naturally emulates, while adding hints of electro-pop sounds. The new music didn’t drown in laser-filled synth, rather the keyboard and electro-percussion highlighted the always present raw instruments and vocals.

More familiar songs, like the hit single “Hang Me Up to Dry” off of their debut LP “Robbers and Cowards,” riled the crowd into a mosh frenzy, which had Willett stall mid-song to keep the audience’s energy positive. Other crowd favorites included the “Mine is Yours” track “Cold Toes on the Cold Floor,” during which Gallucci switched back and forth from an eerie sounding melodica and energetic guitar.

The show closed with a prolonged encore, which started with a solo performance of the new track “Bottled Affection” that was sung and played on piano by Willett. An energy-filled “Something is not Right with Me” shook the crowd before ending the show. By request, the group’s last song was the hard-hitting blues-driven “St. John,” which saw every audience member singing along with Willett’s soulful vocals.

“It’s funny because I feel like in some ways I kind of forgot how much … of our hometown crowd is here,” Willett said. “You try to lose yourself in it, and I feel like I was very in it tonight. It’s like a static is going through your mind, it’s just fun.”