107.7 The End’s Deck the Hall Ball 2015
KeyArena, Seattle, WA

Eight hours, eight bands, and local alt rock radio station 107.7 The End pulls off another year of Deck The Hall Ball. If the goal of this – the 24th installment of their annual holiday-themed mini-festival – was to recreate what if feels like to listen to their station, then kudos, they hit it on the mark. If you didn’t like one band, that’s when you grabbed a bottomless bucket of popcorn, took a few selfies, and paid attention to the next. But each of the eight bands offered their own brand of alt rock for an overall successful evening.

The show kicked off at 3 pm with the local goodness of Deep Sea Diver. Facing a tough opening slot, DSD delivered their 80’s tinged indie pop, both sweet and danceable. Front woman Jessica Dobson grabbed her guitar for a version of “O Holy Night” joking that “You gotta love the Mariah Carey version. Hers is better than mine.” They closed with upbeat favorite “You Go Running,” super smart on their behalf, leaving the crowd pumped for the rest of the show.

X Ambassadors took the stage with seemingly unstoppable energy and immediately had everyone clapping along for “Loveless.” While the band might not fit any particular label – think hip-hop beats, pleading R&B, arena-rock anthems, a little bit of acoustic guitar – they certainly have fans. If you didn’t know all the words to their radio hit “Renegades” you were probably the only one in the crowd.

The foot-stomping soul of Nathaniel Rateliff & the Night Sweats seems to be all the rage these days, and the band’s robust performance proved why. The horn section danced, Rateliff shuffled, the music makes you want to move. Rateliff’s voice is big and bombastic, while mixing folk music and southern soul into a winning combination that today’s retro-loving hipsters can’t get enough of.

Now that souls were stirring, Alabama Shakes took their rightful throne on the stage to a screaming audience. Like a woman possessed, Brittany Howard led her band of charmers through a screechingly-good set, starting with the psych-rock groove of “Future People” all the way through to the pleading “Gimme All Your Love.”

Walk the Moon blew the roof off with positive vibes and high energy right out of the gate. I don’t think the band ever stops moving. The driving, sexy “Jenny” had the stands shaking, all the way through “Shut Up and Dance” which is instructive enough for even the most rain-soaked emo kid to get the drift.

Twenty One Pilots might as well have been the headliner for the amount of fans that were clearly there just for them. The Ohioan duo puts on a show to end all shows, even on a stage that isn’t solely theirs. Jumping over pianos, running to the soundboard to sing, or up an aisle through the crowd, or hovering on a portable drum set surfing the crowd, these guys know how to do live. Their reggae-influenced alt rock with heavy beats and fast-spit lyrics has a crazed youth following, but it’s hard to argue with their brand of humble, emotional party tunes.

For the second year in a row, Cage The Elephant’s heavy blues-rock proved another semi-awkward live experience. Front man Matthew Shultz just couldn’t stop jumping into the crowd, despite security’s obvious displeasure. Their time warp 60s chaos comes off as relentless garage rock involving a lot of thrashing, jumping, and lighters in the air in the most un-romantic rock-god way possible.

After all that upbeat craziness, local alt-rockers Death Cab For Cutie finally took to the stage. And guess what, they’re still Death Cab. They’re a great band, and Ben Gibbard certainly knows his way around a heartstring pulling alt-pop song. They’ve matured into a level of comfort that is far less awkward on stage than previous incarnations. They know how to write a set list of winning favorites including “The New Year,” their latest hit “Black Sun,” and the closer “Transatlanticism.” And maybe I’ve just seen them one too many times this year, but DCFC are starting to get just a tad too predictable. No matter, the five party-goers in front of me were still dancing their asses off as the crowd started to thin and we all headed back to our weeknight reality.

Review by Stephanie Dore
Photos by Sunny Martini

Deck the Hall Ball 2015