A hater’s take on Cold War Kids at ACL Fest

What can I say about my opinion of Cold War Kids going into their ACL Fest set that couldn’t be said about the Cold War itself? “How did we let this be a thing for so long, and why? Was there a point to this?”

So, yeah—not the biggest Cold War Kids fan here. But, I am a big fan of the surprise enjoyment that comes from walking into something with low expectations and finding that that something ends up being OK. That makes for a pleasant music experience, the kind I was hoping to find as I stood baking in the afternoon sun waiting for Cold War Kids to take the stage Friday afternoon and win me over.

Austin, TX -Cold War Kids perform at ACL Music Festival on August 30, 2016. Suzanne Cordeiro for American-Statesman

Austin, TX -Cold War Kids perform at ACL Music Festival on August 30, 2016. Suzanne Cordeiro for American-Statesman

Frontman Nathan Willett didn’t help matters arriving on stage chewing gum (???) and in a sleeveless shirt. But, I soldiered on, still in it to have my expectations turned upside down.

The band opened with “All This Could Be Yours,” a song that sounds to these ears like a Modest Mouse cover band playing with the piano chords from Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ “Can’t Hold Us.” Then they went into “Miracle Mile.” Neither song was particularly bad—or interesting to me. But, man, the crowd ate it up like so many trays of nachos and kimchi fries, as evidenced by flash-tatted youths smiling and screaming the lyrics in each other’s faces.

A couple more songs in and I started to feel like me coming around on Cold War Kids just might not be in the cards. That’s when Willett asked the crowd,”Austin, you know this?” A series of fuzzy guitar and bass notes bounced in unison. His query was met with cheers. They did know this. So did I. This is the “old stuff”—songs I knew I had a taste for and the band’s best chance to convert this hater.

“Hang Me Out to Dry” came first followed a song later by “We Used to Vacation.” Both are fine little earworms that seem to borrow liberally from Kill the Moonlight-era Spoon, a sound I’m more than happy to hear bands borrow from, and both were irresistible hits live just as they are on record, even to a skeptic like me.

In the end, I felt unswayed, but even as a skeptic, I can concede that Cold War Kids have a certain undeniable appeal. If they happen to appeal to you, you can catch Cold War Kids playing at Emo’s Tuesday night with Prinze George or when they return to Zilker for weekend two of ACL Fest 2016.

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