It was bitterly cold on Saturday, January 13, the night Walk The Moon played New York City’s Hammerstein’s Ballroom for the second night of their Press Restart Tour. But even though the show wouldn’t start till an hour after doors opened, the line to get in the door stretched around the corner by the time 7pm hit. While I’m no stranger to attending shows solo, I made it a point to bring a friend to this show, because a Walk The Moon show is an experience so special it deserves to be shared.
Even once inside, the die-hard fans were easy to spot. Yes, they were the ones who were pressed against the barricade at the front of the room, but they’re also the ones who had walked in with stripes and dots and other designs proudly displayed on their faces. When I headed to the restroom before the event began, I noticed three girls standing in front of the mirror, small pots of face paint in hand. I asked if I could take some photos, and remarked that the people I’d seen in the front of the line weren’t wearing any face paint. “It’s cold out,” one of the girls – Maggie, whose curly hair was tied up in two buns on either side of her head – explained. “I mean, we decided to do the face paint in here – and we changed our clothes, too. It’s way too cold out to be dressed like this!” she reminded me, gesturing to her green tank top.
Like me and my friend, Maggie and her friends (Angie, in red, and Robin, in black) had taken the train in from Northern New Jersey. By the time I arrived on the scene, Maggie was already almost finished with her face paint. She’s the veteran of the group, and told me she had seen Walk The Moon “like five times. The first time I saw them, I didn’t know the face paint was a thing- but now I do it every time!” Angie and Robin hadn’t seen the band before but were eager to join in their friend’s excitement and feel the magic for themselves.
The night’s opening act, Company of Thieves, were a fitting choice for a tour called “Press Restart”, as the Chicago-based group had just recently returned from a six-year break. Following a reunion tour in September 2017 that included select cities beginning in Indianapolis, then out east to New York, and finally back out west to Los Angeles, it had been a long time since their Company of Thieves’ last proper full-US trek. Playing songs from their 2011 album Running From A Gamble as well as a new single “Treasure”, lead vocalist Genevieve Schatz also teased a new EP. Though their performance was brief, the band’s excitement at playing in such a large room was evident.
COMPANY OF THIEVES
Hammerstein Ballroom was entirely sold out, and either in excitement for the show or to escape the cold, the majority of those in attendance had crowded up close to the front. Some show-goers, however, had not found their spot, and one group of young women spent a few moments debating whether it was worth joining the thick of the crowd to make their way closer and get a better view, when suddenly the most timid of the cohort declared, “Why not?” and the other two followed her lead. That’s the thing about Walk The Moon; they have the ability to pull their listeners out of their mind and away from their anxieties, and therefore push people out of their shell.
Beginning with “Press Restart”, it wasn’t until four songs into the set that the band stopped to talk. “Thank you so much- this is fun,” lead vocalist Nicholas Petricca said after wrapping up “Kamikaze.” And fun it was: while Walk The Moon have plenty of songs about the harder points and growing pains of life, they’ve never written a sad song, as everything they do has an ecstatic quality and a message of empowerment and the ability to move forward. As Petricca and co. sang about growing up and growing apart on “Portugal”, the refrain of “You are not alone” rang true as 3,500 fans were singing along; while we each individually mourn losses of friendships and relationships, there’s a power in knowing others feel the exact same.
The Press Restart Tour is in celebration of Walk The Moon’s new album What If Nothing, and while there were plenty of new songs performed, there were plenty of old songs too (“Lisa Baby” and “Shiver Shiver” were highlights of the early cuts). There were fast songs, like “Shut Up And Dance” and “Headphones”, and there were slow songs, like “Aquaman” – which guitarist Eli Maiman described as “slow and tender” – and “Surrender” and “Tiger Teeth”, which relate to the freedom and release we can find in admitting the pain of our most vulnerable moments.
“Thank you for being there with us tonight. It’s been a long time to get to this point,” Petricca admitted just over halfway through the set. Perhaps he was referring to playing a sold-out show in New York City; perhaps he was referring to something more personal. After all, a song like “Lost In The Wild” – which was prefaced by the “In My Mind” intro that gave What If Nothing its name – could only be written by someone who’s felt pain but also had an immense amount of growth, working to embrace the joy in not having life all figured out.
Returning to the stage for a brief encore, Walk The Moon welcomed back those who had been to a show before, and welcomed new fans to the family. The encore was just two songs, the first being “Up 2 U”: while never released as a single, it’s a perfect representation of the band’s message that the change we seek to find in our lives is ultimately up to us. Finally, as per tradition, they closed the show with “Anna Sun.” Written as Petricca’s days at Kenyon College in Cincinnati were coming to an end (the song takes its name from a sociology professor at the school), it’s the kind of song that could only have been written by someone from the Midwest, where time moves slower and youth has a more powerful allure than major coastal cities where things move fast. Though Petricca now lives in Los Angeles, the band still proudly declared, “We are Walk The Moon and we are from Ohio.”
A few moments later, once the band had left the stage, my friend and I were making our way to the exit when we ran into Maggie. Sweaty and with her face paint slightly smudged, she was grinning ear to ear. I had barely gotten the words out of my mouth to ask if she’d had fun when she replied “Oh my god, YES!” Angie and Robin were nowhere to be seen, but she assured us they enjoyed the night as well. On our way out the door, we saw a girl with a familiar pattern of white stripes and black dots on her face.
“You did your face paint just like Nick in the ‘Anna Sun’ video!”, I exclaimed.
“We were looking for her all night,” she and her friend replied, smiling.
Throughout a total of nineteen songs, Walk The Moon were humble and wide-eyed as they reveled in the beauty of the night. They talked about how much it meant to be on that stage, but what they didn’t talk about was what the songs meant or what they were written about, instead leaving that meaning up to the fans- and in a way, finding meaning for yourself and confidence from within is what they’re all about. To experience a Walk The Moon show is to witness a piece of magic so real you can’t help but carry it with you. Perhaps you’ll carry it with you as you walk out the door or for the hour it takes you to get home; perhaps you’ll carry it in your heart forever. That’s another choice that’s ultimately up to you, and isn’t there something wonderful about that possibility?
WALK THE MOON
Walk The Moon are currently on the Press Restart Tour with Company of Thieves. A full list of upcoming shows, as well as links to purchase tickets, can be found on their website.