The Numinous National
By: T. Dylon Jones
Louisville’s Iroquois Amphitheater was filled with the introspective sounds of indie rockers The National on Friday, September 13. Eager fans crowded before the event opened at 6:30 p.m.
But as the lights went down and the sweet smell of bourbon permeated the amphitheater’s sold-out seats, it became clear that The National wasn’t the only beloved band in attendance. Scottish indie rock band Frightened Rabbit took the stage as an ostentatious opening act, bantering with the crowd between driving songs. Their lilting keyboard melodies and emphatic, Modest Mouse-like vocals yielded startling sounds of appreciation. “Ow!” someone said.
“I like to think when someone makes that noise someone’s just pinched their buttocks,” said Frightened Rabbit lead singer Scott Hutchison.
A brief, uneasy intermission followed the opening act. The only people who moved were making their way to the stage. At least 100 people gathered in the small space in front of Iroquois’ seats, behind the security line before the stage. Social conventions on personal space were gladly abandoned for a closer look.
The lights went down, and the back wall of the stage illuminated the crowd; it was an enormous screen streaming to the crowd abstract blue dazzled eyes, and morphed into a backstage video feed of the band. They were drinking wine and, in the case of drummer Bryan Devendorf, smoking electronic cigarettes.
The crowd cheered as lead singer Matt Berninger stepped onto the stage, followed by twin guitarists Aaron and Bryce Dessner, bassist Scott Devendorf, his brother Bryan Devendorf, and the two-piece horn section. This is literally a band of brothers.
Magnified on the enormous screen, Berninger paced like a caged tiger as the band kicked up songs from their latest album, “Trouble Will Find Me.” Guitars were tapped on the stage and shaken to produce otherworldly harmonics. The horns alternated between pure, open harmony and experimental flutters. The drums punctuated odd metered songs, and Berninger, in his signature black suit, threw his wine down onstage and sang with abandon, eschewing his soft approach on record for a heavy approach onstage.
“I really enjoyed Matt Berninger’s stage presence,” said audience member Zac Shoopman. Berninger seemed overwhelmed by his poetic lines. His morose baritone echoed as he kneeled like a man in prayer. He left the stage to sing in the crowd.
“My favorite part was the encore, when [Berninger] came off the stage, and the audience was fighting for his mic cord,” said concert-goer Conner Long. Hundreds of people passed Berninger’s microphone cord overhead as he stood on the back of a seat, the crowd encircling him like the leader of a civil rights demonstration. Emotions ran high as the throng of people shouted with admiration.