107.7 The End’s “Deck The Hall Ball”
December 8, 2015 @ Key Arena
Words by AJ Dent; Photos by Kyle Davis
Deck The Hall Ball! At times, this year’s 107.7 “The End”-sponsored event was as corny as its name—schticks between sets by the station’s DJs, the sugary-est of pop music on the planet—but you know, when you just let yourself laugh and dance along, it’s kind of fun.
Tons of tweens and teens were in attendance, too, but before that mental image insta-annoys you, reflect on the fact that this was probably some kids’ first-ever concert.
While Seattle’s Deep Sea Diver and upstate New Yorkers X Ambassadors were opening up the day, I was still at work, unfortunately. I heard DSD did an incredible rendition of “O Holy Night,” and, while religious anything isn’t my bag, I bet that hymn gave the crowd more chills than the Seattle freeze (yeah, I can be corny too).
I rolled in for Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats and it was a warm welcome to the cold, rainy afternoon. I’m not the biggest fan of the old timey folk thing – the one where musicians dress like steamboat band members from the 1800s, but, again, I can suspend my disbelief when everyone’s having a good time. The piano player was headbanging, the trumpet player did jigs worthy of his suspenders, and the crowd went especially nutso during their final number, “S.O.B.” A woman near me even yelled out, “Oh, thank you!” at them multiple times like she had been healed Jesus-style or something.
The act I was most excited to see, Alabama Shakes, was next. I feel kinda bad even bringing more attention to this, but Brittany Howard… Scheiße. When she lavishly shrieks stuff like, “Baby I’m yours” and “Tell me what you wanna do,” the entire earth is at her feet. Add her opulent self-confidence and Jim Carrey-esque facial contortions and, yeah. Impossible to look away. The entire band sounded outta-site and utterly cinematic, which is no surprise given the group’s 2015 release Sound & Color is in my top 10 albums of the year. Please do yourself a favor and listen to it for the rest of your life.
Next it was back to the cheese, and I think Walk The Moon may be made of energy drinks and sundogs. They’re like the good kind of acid trip. That one you have when you’re 20 and everything suddenly feels positive so you start hugging strangers and telling your friends you love them over and over. Lead singer Nicholas Petricca sported multi-colored hair and facepaint, channeling the group’s neon sound. Oh, and the guys took the stage with the Lion King song “Circle of Life” blasting through the speakers, which says a lot about them. Can a decibel explode? If so, the singalong of “Shut Up and Dance” made it happen. These dudes know their target market.
What is going on with Twenty One Pilots? Tyler Joseph and Josh Dun sound like Flobots and Jack’s Mannequin with a ukulele and a moody drumset thrown in. No matter how those reference points make you feel, they are two of the best entertainers I have ever seen. In 30 years. Through thousands of performances.
Joseph repeatedly leaped clear up on top of his upright piano like a cat-gazelle combo, continuing to dance and rap-sing like it was no thing. Dun did a backflip off the top of said piano, only to hop back up to his elevated drumset and continue bounding about. Are these dudes actual Olympians? Joseph also ran into the crowd multiple times, even back to the soundboard where I stood, creating happy chaos throughout KeyArena. This is also hard to explain, but at points the guys were also drumming on these platform things being held up… by the audience?? Like some sort of extreme crowdsurfing. I know it sounds like I’m exaggerating, but they were a blast to see live.
I was worried Cage The Elephant would feel drab following that set, but Matthew Shultz wouldn’t let that happen. In fact, I found myself wondering if he’d watched Twenty One Pilots and decided the only option was getting out of control himself. Whatever it was, I want more of his energy in my life. “This is a celebration,” he called out before roaring into “Take It Or Leave It,” his hair spraying everywhere like a homemade bomb. He won an award I didn’t know existed: Spending more time in the crowd than he did on the stage. Seriously, he made the security guards’ lives hell for like an hour and a half, flinging himself into the audience over and over and over and over.
Cage The Elephant’s sound is like running alongside a train on a dry summer night, screaming at no one in particular with nowhere to go. During “Cigarette Daydream,” when he was actually back up by his band for a minute, the screens behind him showed blurry stars, and thousands of audience members turned on their phones’ flashlights, causing a floaty, night sky effect. This has been done for decades with lighters, but it looked cool. Like I said, call me corny.
Finishing off the evening was—dun dun dun—Death Cab For Cutie! Ok yes, my tone is sarcastic. I know they’re a big deal, but I’ve never really gotten these guys. Their set was clearly the most polished of the evening, but maybe that’s my problem. They’re smooth, and know what to deliver, and it’s all supposed to mean something, but it’s never sunk into my skin.
Staples “The New Year” and “Doors Unlocked and Open” were relaxing, though, and made me want to get home to my cat and a bowl of pasta. So in that way, yes they did inspire me. And (this time I’m not being sarcastic) seeing the people around me utterly lose their minds to the music was just awesome. (Two couples in front of me were so drunk they kept screaming during quiet parts, grabbing each other’s asses, and repeatedly falling onto the ground, clutching at the backs of their seats in vain efforts to soften the blow. It should have been irritating, but it was actually endearing…and more entertaining to watch than Ben Gibbard’s practiced face.
Overall, while this year’s lineup wasn’t my favorite in the event’s history (2013, swoon), I had a ball (ha!) and my fellow 107.7 The End concertgoers really made it festive and funny. Just like the holidays should be.
On that most corny of notes…. Cheers!
Check out more great pictures from Deck The Hall Ball 2015 on our Flickr page.