The crowd was a mixed bag at 9:30 Club last night. But those who showed early were young, and there for either of the two openers: Courtship and Nation of Language. Each make synth-pop, though their takes on the sound diverge. Ultimately, this made little difference; both had the crowd moving and those who had only arrived early for a better sight line of The Wombats found themselves getting the worm.
Nation of Language are a New York City-based, synth-pop trio. Their sound is distinctly new wave, featuring lush synths and thudding drum machines. Much of their music and stage presence come from their lead vocalist Ian Devaney. His voice and bearing are one part David Byrne, another part Morrissey, and yet another John Maus – and his voice is no less powerful. Their look was decidedly retro and curated, but when not dancing, Devaney was quite casual, introducing their last three songs with “Another song that we play,” “Here’s a last song” and lastly, “Here’s another last song.”
On the opposite end of the synth-pop spectrum (if that’s a thing – hey look, I might have created a thing), Courtship mixes a blissful style in contrast to Nation of Language’s goth-inspired tone. The band is based in Los Angeles and “California” really comes across. Their sound is reminiscent of Vampire Weekend, but with drums that have much more in common with pop music in practice (aka they use a drum machine). Their songwriting is, simply put, really good, and replete with choruses that moved the entire club.
Courtship’s approach to their performance was also straightforward. Cofounder Micah Gordon couldn’t hide his excitement at both playing the 9:30 Club and opening for The Wombats. Midway through the set, he shared a story of sneaking into a Wombats show while growing up in Portland.
“Guys, this is out of control. I know I sound chill, but I am losing my sh-t.”
The two bands are still quite nascent, but big things await them in this freshly minted 2018. Both are set to continue touring with The Wombats, but hopefully will launch solo tours of their own. Though each only have singles on Spotify, you can check out Courtship and Nation of Language on Bandcamp. More of Courtship can be found by searching on YouTube – only look for the videos that feature a Polaroid overlaid with a painted winking face (it’s their telltale).
9:30 Club: 815 V St. NW, DC; 202-265-0930; www.930.com