Bastille Day came twice this year for the City of Roses. However, instead of storming a French prison, Portland music lovers descended in full force upon the Doug Fir Lounge for Bastille's sold-out show on Friday night.
Anticipation was understandably high when the first opener of the night, the rather unusually named Nightmare & the Cat took to the stage. The English/American band is fronted by Sam & Django Stewart, sons of Eurythmics musician David A. Stewart (yeah, I know it's cheap to mention people's famous parents, but that tidbit may just help you out at trivia night someday, so bear with me). Although some of their songs are catchy, their sonic identity seems unfinished - as though they haven't quite decided if they're going to rock out or embrace a more folky sound. And while I'm sure their looks of disaffection are a practiced move on their part, it contrasted sharply with the enthusiasm of the two acts that followed. Speaking of which...
So if I wasn't sold on Nightmare & the Cat, I definitely can say that I had no such reservations about the second opener, Little Daylight. This Brooklyn-based trio quickly won over the crowd with their all-too-short set. Combining modern synthpop beats with eighties inspired vocals, Little Daylight sounds a little bit like Chvrches would if they were fronted by, say, Belinda Carlisle - and it works. Their sound is polished and catchy, especially on songs like "Name in Lights" and "Glitter and Gold." Hopefully we get to see these guys back in Portland, before too long.
Once the openers finished their bit, Bastille quickly took to the stage, and it took about one glimpse of frontman Dan Smith for the crowd to go nuts, especially when he led them in a drum-pounding (Portlanders really love lead singers with a drum - Imagine Dragons, I'm looking at you), floor-stomping rendition of "Things We Lost in the Fire," followed shortly after by an awesome cover of City High's "What Would You Do."
At first, I wasn't entirely sure what to think of the London-based group - while they've garnered a lot of press recently for their tongue-in-cheek covers of artists like the aforementioned City High, Miley Cyrus ("We Can't Stop"), or even TLC ("No Scrubs"), their sound is definitely more pop-oriented than it is alternative, bringing to mind comparisons to other crossover-bound artists such as Coldplay or The Fray. Mark my words, it won't be long before we start hearing "Pompeii" on Top 40 Radio, and I suspect Bastille's next tour will be hitting much bigger venues.
However, in spite of these reservations, I was quickly won over by their performance. Despite his grousing about being "a pretty ******* awful dancer," Smith has an amazing stage presence, and he led the crowd on a rollicking, high energy joyride through their set, culminating when he waded into the crowd during "Flaws."
(Dan Smith of Bastille)
Mid-way through their set, Bastille played a song called "Haunt" wherein Dan threatens, "I'll come back to haunt you." If the crowd at Doug Fir was any indication, I think they'd tell him that he was welcome anytime.