Last Thursday night, the Walkmen played their biggest headlining show to date at Terminal 5. That this one was their largest is a bit surprising, given that the band’s been around and popular for over ten years now, but their manager assured us it was.
The five Washington, DC, natives, now in their thirties—and with wives and kids and homes upstate—described the performance as a sort of homecoming, a return to the city where they got their start in the early aughts and first broke onto the scene with 2002’s Everyone Who Pretended to Like Me Is Gone. The space was packed, filled with horn-rimmed, thrift shop sweater-draped twenty-somethings, and the set was comfortable, languid, delivered with ease. The fiery, sexily unhinged desperation of the group’s early performances (watch any footage of frontman Hamilton Leithauser howling “The Rat”) is a thing of the past. The new, grown-up Walkmen feel weathered, almost nostalgic for a sound before rock. Thursday’s show—a mix of quietly expansive, acoustic guitar-speckled offerings from their most recent album, Heaven, and the now-classic, searing garage tracks that won them downtown devotion five to ten years ago (they played “138th Street” and “In the New Year,” among others)—was a timely reminder of how far the band has come (and, for better or worse, aged).
The Dum Dum Girls, the California-born garage-pop quartet who opened for the Walkmen, gave us a sharply stylized, punk-infused, and youthful-feeling set in contrast. The four young women, dressed in their signature dark, baroque take on riot grrl wear, rocked and swayed in unison. Songs from 2011’s Only in Dreams—“He Gets Me High,” “Bedroom Eyes”—were the gritty, slyly somber (and unironically kitschy/’60s girl group-reminiscent) highlights.
Photography by Cory Smith.