Imagine Dragons, Atlas Genius + Nico Vega @ The Warfield, SF 3/16/13
The hoards of face-painted teenage popmeisters bopping alongside aloof,
plaid-clad thirty-somethings should have been the initial indication that the combination of Nico Vega, Atlas Genius, and Imagine Dragons could sure appeal to the masses.
And, appeal they did. Los Angeles alt-pop rockers Nico Vega blew out as the intro band, with frontwoman Aja Volkman gyrating atop a steel barrel while guitarist Rich Koehler (donning a Pete Townshend-esque fedora) ground out some aggressive riffs. Volkman at one point led her own high-octane percussion interlude with the rest of Nico Vega, still standing high above the crowd on that graffiti-branded barrel—it was a fitting summary of the soulful focus Volkman funnels into Nico Vega’s sound.
Atlas Genius, hot off SXSW, and led by the brothers Jeffery—Keith on vocals and Michael on drums (other brother Steven isn’t currently on tour)—emerged far beyond their breakout status. Despite only a brief presence within the thick of the music industry thus far, Atlas Genius pierced between their strong accompanying acts—quite a feat considering the unbridled showmanship of Volkman and Imagine Dragons’ frontman Dan Reynolds.
The music, all from 2013’s When It Was Now, was a thoughtful provocation of life, love, and the loss of innocence, though not tempered down by some of their heavier themes, or overshadowed by their accompanying fellow acts. This band is something, and their Warfield performance was one of many reaffirmations of their grasp on some serious alt-indie real estate.
The hyper-zealous Imagine Dragons broke out after a 30-minute break following Atlas Genius, led by a un-cheekily mulleted Dan Reynolds. It was, quite literally, a big production. Imagine Dragons brought with them their own set deco—a forest of large, barren trees—as well as a catalogue of different sized drums. Some were huge drums. Like, drums so big, four Aja Volkmans could have fit inside them. They certainly lended to the utter epicness of the Dragons’ set.
Bassist Wayne Sermon, in a Steadman-illustrated Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas tee, stayed consistent as the grounding force for Reynolds’ abounding, charismatic performance, as he bounced between the second drum set (sets of drumsticks chucked: five) and the microphone.
By the pinnacle of the set, a blistering “Radioactive,” which briefly showcased a string section, followed by the Dragons playing both sides of the aforementioned giant drum, the audience bellowed along word-for-word with Reynolds.
Other favorites, like “Demons,” in which the Dragons released glow-in-the-dark beach balls into the audience, and the effervescent “It’s Time,” were affecting, fiery, and sharp—a universally dynamic curating of sounds excellently delivered to their varied fans.