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The Districts and Hurray For The Riff Raff @ World Cafe Live for the Free At Noon Show.

April 4, 2014

If you’ve been wondering if all that primal growling that Rob Grote, frontman of The Districts, does night in and night out ever catches up to him, the answer is a soft, scratchy yes.

Taking the stage for a WXPN Free at Noon session today at the World Cafe Live, Grote could barely speak between songs, his apologies to the audience nearly indiscernible. But luckily for the capacity crowd waiting to hear the young band from North Philly via Lititz, Pa., Grote’s condition did nothing to stop The Districts from rocking the house with their high energy brand of indie rock.

Fresh off a successful trip to SXSW, The Districts fired off a six-song set that was loud from start to finish. Grote had the audience’s attention from the beginning, as he heaved from foot to foot with his back to the audience, seemingly stalking his shadow and increasing his inner amplitude before launching into the opening “Lyla.”

The band kept the pace throughout the set, with Grote and guitarist Mark Larson providing much of the on-stage dynamic, singing passionately into their microphones and thrashing around stage during the climaxes of songs like “Rocking Chair” and “Long Distance.” The work of drummer Braden Lawrence also stood out on sounds like “Call Box,” when his pounding bass drum and crashing cymbals provided the backbone to a din of noise.

Grote didn’t speak much given his condition, but acknowledged the band’s happiness at being back in Pennsylvania.

“It’s the longest we’ve gone without being home,” Grote said. “It’s good to be back in Philly.”

With Grote donning his harmonica holder prior to the last song, the audience knew that fan favorite “Funeral Beds,” was coming in as the closer. The performance didn’t disappoint, as fans put their hands together at the start of the song to clap with the building beat, and again at the end to offer The Districts a rowdy round of applause as they left the stage.

Prior to The Districts, the Free at Noon crowd was treated to another six-song performance from News Orleans based folk outfit Hurray for the Riff Raff. Centered around the voice and guitar playing of songwriter Alynda Lee Segarra, the band also utilizes the violin (Yosi Pearlstein) and upright bass (David Maclay) to achieve an authentic, rootsy sound.

The Riff Raff opened with “Blue Ridge Mountain,” the irresistibly upbeat opener from their new album “Small Town Heroes,” before Segarra got the crowd laughing.

“I’d be lying if I said this was the first time we were in a dark bar at noon,” Segarra said. “We are from New Orleans after all.”

Despite having a formidable stock of thoughtful, heavy songs in their discography, the Riff Raffs kept things light through the performance, playing favorites like “Look Out Mama,” and the closing “Little Black Star.” For the final number, Pearlstein and the band’s drummer set down their instruments to start the song with a step-dance, and the audience quickly joined in clapping along.

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