Review + Photos: Young the Giant, Cold War Kids, Joywave at Merriweather Post Pavilion


Photos by Gevar Bonham

How often do you experience an identity crisis, wondering where you belong or what you’re doing here on this planet? 

For me, live music is the solution to this problem, particularly when it involves stomping, clapping and drawn-out vocals, or stage howling as I like to call it. When I heard that Joywave, Cold War Kids and Young the Giant would play Merriweather Post Pavilion, I saw it as a well-timed opportunity to de-stress for a few hours.

Joywave was already half way through their set when I arrived, but their energy echoed all the way to the parking lot. They were quick to claim Merriweather as America’s best venue. While I normally roll my eyes at those blanket statements, they went on to applaud the sound crew and easier than normal tech, which made their comment feel more genuine. From Content, their latest album, “Little Lies You’re Told,” caught my attention with the lyrics, “Those are lies that they told you, they can’t pay the rent,” accurately highlighting the constant push and pull felt in making decisions based on what others deem best.



Joywave’s older songs, particularly “Somebody New,” reminded me of Silversun Pickups, with the repetitive bass line, fast-paced drumming and whining guitar, the two main differences being heard in Daniel Armbruster’s more mainstream vocals and the band’s overlaying of electronic sounds and what seemed to be movie audio clips. I was pleasantly surprised by Joywave’s energetic set, despite being fairly unfamiliar with their music.

As the set change came to a close, a white neon light that spelled La Divine, the name of Cold War Kids’ newest album, turned on and I saw it literally and figuratively as a sign. I remember very little from their 9:30 Club show back in 2014, as that was the day I found out some terrible personal news. At Merriweather, the band started their set with older, more well-known singles, including “Miracle Mile,” “All This Could Be Yours” and “Hang Me Up to Dry.” Watching vocalist Nathan Willett stomp around the stage and haphazardly bang the piano keys reminded me why I started listening to this band a decade ago.

I’ll admit I haven’t been a frequent listener of Cold War Kids’ last two albums, mainly because of their move towards more mainstream, radio perfect sounds. I did, however, find myself taking note of the intense bass vibrations and audience connection during “Restless.” Their cover of Rihanna’s “Love On The Brain” was a surprise, but great crowd pleaser. My favorite song was the last in their set, “Something Is Not Right With Me.” I loved the way Willett ended each phrase stretching for the next highest note, as the drums, bass, piano and tambourine played in furious synch, slowly increasing speed.



A half hour later, a pyramid set-up took over the stage and the speakers crackled like old radio connections, sampling songs with “America” in the lyrics. Young the Giant walked towards their spots on stage, one by one, and started with “Amerika,” my favorite song off of their 2016 album, Home of the Strange.

They scattered their popular radio hits like “Cough Syrup” and “Mind Over Matter” throughout the night, but focused mainly on newer sounds, ranging from the milder tempos heard in “Amerika” and “Mr. Know-It-all” to the darker bass-centered songs like “Something to Believe In.”

I appreciated their attention to detail in everything, from what visuals would play behind them for each song–including a silhouette of the Carlton dance–to movement across the stage, making use of the pyramid steps with jumps and runs.

Having recently seen Coldplay, I now better understand the commentary regarding Chris Martin’s influence on Sameer Gadhia. His onstage energy was contagious, although I was not keen on his frequent hip gyration dancing.  In comparison, Jacob Tilley and Ehson Hashemian looked a bit too stiff until they did a rotating two-step with the rest of the band. Regardless, there’s no denying the band’s ability to engage with and feed off of the energy of their fans.



Midway through the set, Young the Giant gathered together to play “Strings” and “Firelight” as seen in their stripped down In The Open video series. I found this moment to be the most moving of the entire show, especially once the audience started to wave their cellphone lights back and forth.

I’ve found that when music begs my physical involvement, I become more in tune with those raw, deeper feelings — anger, sorrow, depression — that society is constantly pushing us to repress. I thank Joywave, Cold War Kids and Young the Giant for giving me a few hours to relax and let loose.

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