(SXSW 2015 flavoured!) Live Review: The Districts with Pine Barons at Club Congress, Tucson, AZ – 11th March 2015

By on Monday, 16th March 2015 at 2:00 pm

Late winter and early spring are a busy time for music in the Tucson and Phoenix area. The weather is perfect this time of year for visiting from out of town and escaping the chill (or in some cases, the deep freeze) of winter. And because we are located just eight hours down the road along Interstate 10 from big venues in Los Angeles and San Diego, Phoenix and Tucson are excellent stopping points for bands heading from West Coast tour dates to showcases at the SXSW Music Festival in Austin, TX. Case in point, several Austin-bound bands are on the lineup for the VivaPHX festival in Phoenix this Saturday night, including Best Coast, Geographer, 2:54, The Twilight Sad, and Honeyblood.

Tucson’s own Club Congress recently played host to SXSW 2015 showcasing bands The Dodos and Springtime Carnivore, and last Wednesday night featured two more acts on their way to Austin, Pine Barons and The Districts. These two bands are geographic neighbors, Pine Barons hailing from southern New Jersey (their name is a play on the Pine Barrens area) and The Districts now living in nearby Philadelphia. They played hole-in-the-wall Phoenix venue Last Exit Live the night before this show, and presumably found a similar dive bar vibe at Club Congress. Both bands played the kind of gritty, garage-flavoured show that will be perfect for small venue showcases at SXSW, taking the opportunity to show off their technical chops to the small but enthusiastic crowd, which included the proud grandparents of The Districts’ frontman Rob Grote.

Pine Barons at Club Congress 11 Mar 2015

The Districts’ tour mates Pine Barons are an independent band who originally distributed their self-titled debut album on their Bandcamp. Pine Barons bill themselves as a “psych-folk-harmonious-rock-and-roll band” whose influences include classic rock, folk, jazz and punk. Those influences were demonstrated most clearly in the extended instrumental sections of their songs, which featured scorching guitar riffs and wildly flailing drums. Unfortunately, their set seemed to lack focus, and on this night Pine Barons didn’t manage to display any of the charm or inventive instrumentation found in the video for their song ‘Chamber Choir’.


The Districts gave a more polished and experienced performance than their opening act, their relaxed stage presence belying their youthful age. Signed while still in high school to record label Fat Possum, The Districts made their presence known at SXSW 2014 on the strength of their self-titled debut EP. For this show, The Districts mingled songs from that EP with tracks from their recently released album ‘A Flourish and a Spoil’, reviewed by editor Mary here.

New album tracks ‘Chlorine’ and ‘Hounds’ opened the headline set on a lively note, but the momentum lagged a little bit through some of the older songs. With long, drawn out instrumental intros and very little banter between songs, I found it difficult to stay engaged, and the band members’ frenetic energy translated into a regrettable tendency to turn their backs to the audience while playing.

The Districts at Club Congress 11 March 2015

For his part, Grote used the small stage at Club Congress to his advantage, at one point perching on the drum ledge and jumping back down into the spotlight. But the lazy, growling drawl of his vocal delivery didn’t translate well through the sound system at Club Congress, which instead favoured the heavily distorted guitars. The vocals were more centered in quieter track ‘Funeral Beds’, where Grote’s harmonica added a welcome touch of warmth to the sound. Foregoing an encore on this Wednesday night, the band still ended the show on a high note with the new album’s lead single ‘4th and Roebling’ and fan favourite ‘Young Blood’.

The Districts at Club Congress 11 March 2015

Pine Barons are scheduled to play Rachael Ray’s Feedback House showcase at SXSW on Thursday the 19th of March at Stubb’s BBQ. The Districts’ new album ‘A Flourish and a Spoil’ is out now on Fat Possum Records. After their scheduled appearances at this year’s SXSW including Thursday night the 19th of March at the Parish, the band will tour the UK and Ireland in April and May. Previous TGTF coverage of The Districts is right this way.

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

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