Let me preface that The War on Drugs happens to be one of my top-three, all-time, bucket-list bands I’ve yet to see… well, at least that was the case up until October 11th, 2022 at San Diego’s Open Air Theater. Let me also elaborate that The War on Drugs — particularly, A Deeper Understanding — is my go-to, reflective rainy day jams.
It all started with a boy and a dream. It was the summer of 2018, when I spent an extended amount of time living in New York (the opposite coast of everything I’ve ever known) to be in a movie; it was also when I made the terrible choice to date a sad little man whose only enemy was himself. I did get one common love out of the two — The War on Drugs. That same sad man broadened my musical horizons and both of us had an inexplicable admiration for the rain… so, upon arrival to New York it poured, day-in and day-out… for five weeks straight. Naturally, The War on Drugs was in my ears nonstop as I traversed those stormy streets, spending my days working, my nights enamored with my Sad Man and trying to call the city (albeit, temporarily) my ‘home’.
Ever since then, the rain and The War on Drugs are synonymous to me.
I can’t be alone in this association, either… I mean, the word ‘rain’ pops up like 50 times per song. But, there is also a magical element with the two… like they were meant for each other. The universe proved this to me when tiny, dewy drops of water started falling — softly at first, before cascading — down on my windshield the minute I started heading to the show. It’s like the skies knew The War on Drugs was in town. I couldn’t have been more overjoyed; I wasn’t even going to be mad if it poured throughout the entire outdoor show. It was perfect.
The rain stopped just as doors opened, though, which I’m sure everyone (besides me) was thankful for. As attendees found their (unfortunately wet) seats in the outdoor pavilion, right smack in the middle of the San Diego State campus, opener Adam Charles Miller took the stage. Alongside two other players, the three performers came across as The Cure meets Depeche Mode, flooded in vaporous smoke. Minimal, brooding and barely lit pretty much sums up Adam Miller, with a sound that, in my opinion, is the best New Wave adaptation I’ve heard in ages.
Of course, next up was the main course. The War on Drugs walked out to an amphitheater of cheers, with frontman Adam Granduciel smiling shyly before launching into an epic trifecta of first songs — “Holding On”, “Baby Missiles” and “Pain”. The fact that song number three, while still in the photo pit, was “Pain” made me squeal with delight. I had prayed to the music gods that “Pain” would be song number two or three! Experiencing it up close and personal was unreal.
Taking my seat to “An Ocean in Between The Waves”, the band continued displaying their symphonic abilities. Anyone who discredits The War on Drugs clearly hasn’t witnessed what they can do live — it’s all-encompassing and all-captivating. You can’t look away. Slow-paced, fast-paced… it doesn’t matter. Each song roots attendees in place, transfixed and awe-struck by the majesty of the band’s performance.
With a slightly waning moon high overhead, allowing a little light to seep through passing clouds, the whole event was simply hypnotic, contemplative and euphoric — a perfect Harvest night. Catch The War on Drugs in your town via the links below!
Photography by Kristy Rose