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Cold War Kids are finally getting the respect they deserve

Sound in Focus - Cold War KidsBy Josh Herwitt //

Sound in Focus: Cold War Kids with Other Lives //
Annenberg Space for Photography – Los Angeles
August 15th, 2015 //

Back in 2004 while attending Biola University, a private, evangelical Christian liberal arts college in Southern California, Nathan Willett and Matt Maust met at a friend’s apartment above an Italian restaurant called Mulberry Street Ristorante in Fullerton, Calif. It was there that Maust, influenced by his travels in Eastern Europe, would come up with the name for the band that he would soon start with Willett. Considering both were ones themselves, the name “Cold War Kids” quickly stuck, and it wasn’t long after that they were relocating to Whittier, Calif., to record their first demo.

Now a decade later, with five full-length albums and a handful of EPs (including their debut Mulberry Street) under their belt, Cold War Kids — even with Willett (vocals, piano, guitar, percussion) and Maust (bass) standing as the only two remaining founding members — are finally getting the respect they deserve. Their latest single “First” from 2014’s Hold My Home has become the band’s highest charting single to date, peaking at No. 5 on the Billboard Alternative Songs chart, and there’s a good chance that you probably heard it this past spring if you saw any previews for Cameron Crowe’s latest film “Aloha”. Riding that recent wave of popularity, the quintet has continued to grow its fan base thanks to some high-profile festival performances this summer at Lollapalooza and Outside Lands (read our review of the festival here). So, needless to say, things are at an all-time high for these Cold War Kids right now.

Sound in Focus - Cold War Kids

But like most bands, Cold War Kids have also faced their own set of challenges along the way. While they moved around Southern California before making Long Beach their official home in 2008, they’ve endured some lineup changes along the way, too. One of them came in 2012 with the departure of founding member and lead guitarist Jonnie Russell, whose apartment served as the original meeting place where the band was first conceived. The other came a year later, when drummer Matt Aveiro left the group before eventually joining LA alt-rock outfit Bootstraps.

Willett and Maust, nonetheless, did one hell of a job in finding their replacements. They went after two former Modest Mouse members in guitarist Dann Gallucci, who also served as the band’s live sound engineer during Russell’s final three years, and drummer Joe Plummer, who also plays in The Shins and just released his first solo album Built in Sun less than two weeks ago. Consequently, it’s created a winning formula, with Cold War Kids sounding better live than they ever have before.

Sound in Focus - Cold War Kids

Ringing in the final performance of Sound in Focus, a summer concert series presented by the Annenberg Foundation and KCRW that also featured free-to-the-public performances by TV on the Radio, De La Soul and Dwight Yoakam over the past four weeks, Cold War Kids ripped off 19 songs for an all-ages audience with a mix of fans and families in attendance. The group, of course, has never shied away from showcasing its biggest hits live, and longtime crowd favorites such as “We Used to Vacation” and “Hang Me Up to Dry” came relatively early in its set. But much of Cold War Kids’ newest material from Hold My Home, tracks like slow burner “Harold Bloom”, the symphonic “Nights & Weekends” (the band has been playing live with a pair of backup string players and backup vocalists now, too) and the ska-punk vibe of “Hot Coals”, exuded their own unique energy.

When I caught Cold War Kids back in mid-November at the brand-new Regent Theater (read our venue review here) in downtown LA, it had been only a month since Hold My Home had come out. With the band supporting the album on tour over the last 10 months though, it’s not a surprise to see it operating like a well-oiled machine at this point. Even so, Cold War Kids have never been afraid to switch things up, much like they did during their two-song encore, which started off with a cover of John Lennon’s 1970 single “Well Well Well” and concluded with the irreverent “Saint John” from 2006’s Robbers & Cowards, the album that ultimately put the ball in motion for Willett and Maust. And as that ball continues to roll on now, there’s no telling when it will slow down for these hometown heroes.

Setlist:
Miracle Mile
Minimum Day
We Used to Vacation
Audience
Louder Than Ever
One Song at a Time
Loner Phase
Hang Me Up to Dry
Harold Bloom
Tuxedos
All This Could Be Yours
Drive Desperate
Nights & Weekends
Hot Coals
First
Hospital Beds
Something Is Not Right With Me

Encore:
Well Well Well (John Lennon cover)
Saint John

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