“We’re The Walkmen, and we’re from… Well, we’re from Washington, DC,” is how Hamilton Leithauser, singer of The Walkmen ended their main set at the sold-out Atlantis Wednesday night.
The band that moved to New York City in 2000 really is DC at its heart. “So we are all from Washington, DC, born and raised all around,” Leithauser told the crowd. “My cousin Walt and I are from the Cleveland Park area. Paul Maroon is from Georgetown, and Matt Barrick is from McLean, Virginia.”
So having played a string of shows at the 9:30 Club recently, the band returned to play the second-ever show at the newly minted The Atlantis, capacity 450. The Atlantis is a new venue behind the 9:30 Club (930 V St. NW) modeled in homage to the old 9:30 location (930 F St. NW)
The Walkmen are Leithauser, Peter Bauer on bass, Paul Maroon on guitar, Matt Barrick on drums, and Walter Martin on keys and guitar. They started in DC, moved to New York before an “extended hiatus,” but have moved around since then. And by the way, this is not a “reunion tour,” as the band has been quick to explain they never really broke up.
“This sort of looks like the old 9:30 Club, actually… Man, it does have a little bit of the same feel to it,” Hamilton said of The Atlantis during the show on May 31. He went on to tell a story about how some of his bandmates opened up for Lenny Kravitz at the old 9:30 Club when they were teenagers.
Walking into The Atlantis for the first time, I was amazed at how meticulous they had created the feel of the old club, though without the legendary smell. In fact, this felt like the best of new and old. Beams that obscured part of the old stage were replicated with beams of light showing where the original steel pillars may have stood. There’s now an upstairs where concertgoers can get a perfect view of the stage and the floor below. And there’s even a rooftop area designed to look like the old neighborhood where the original 9:30 Club stood, replete with old posters, lamp posts, and even those coin-operated newspaper bins.
The feeling was not lost on the band, as hitting the stage Leithauser mused how, even though he himself hadn’t played the old club he was witness to a few. And maybe it was that feeling of being back where it all started, but The Walkmen played a great set full of favorites like “The Rat” with more than a few surprises.
“This is one that pre-dates The Walkmen. This is from my old band, The Recoys, from Washington, DC,” Leithauser told the audience before the band started on “Look Out the Window.” And to add to that rarity, the band then played “Woe is Me” that they had only played once in the current tour the previous week at the 9:30 Club.
Watch The Walkmen perform “Woe Is Me” live on KEXP via YouTube:
No one else sounds like The Walkmen. From Hamilton’s voice — which can go from a howl to a croon in the matter of a blink — to the textures that Paul, Walt, and Peter create that ring and chime to those drum fills from Matt Barrick: It’s a sound that seems as fresh and exciting as it did 20 years ago.
Maybe it was this night being the last official set of what they’ve named The Revenge Tour or being back in their old stomping grounds, but the set that this quintet played was nothing short of inspired. It had me holding out hope for more to come. There were those songs I remember I had copied onto tapes for friends — like “What’s In It For Me” — that sounded as good if not better than I remembered. They even played “Four Provinces,” named after the old Four Provinces Irish bar in Cleveland Park which closed quite a few years ago.
In a surprise, when The Walkmen returned for the encore, they played Jonathan Fire*Eater song, “Impatient Talent Show,” which they hadn’t ever played up until this point. Jonathan Fire*Eater was the band that Paul Maroon, Matt Barrick, and Walter Martin were in prior to The Walkmen.
This was a brilliant show that was the perfect introduction to The Atlantis, and I can’t wait to experience more there.
The Walkmen come back to the States in the Fall for dates on the West Coast, but I’m really hoping to see them again soon around these parts.
The setlist included:
Dónde Está la Playa
On the Water
In the New Year
What’s in It for Me
Thinking of a Dream I Had
Look Out the Window
That’s the Punch Line
Woe Is Me
Angela Surf City
All Hands and the Cook
Little House of Savages
Impatient Talent Show (Jonathan Fire*Eater cover)
We’ve Been Had
Here are more photos of The Walkmen performing at The Atlantis on Wednesday, May 31, 2023. All photos copyright and courtesy of David LaMason.