Grand Prairie Friday night, outside the Verizon Theatre's walls, the mood was anything but merry.
A nation reeled from a spasm of senseless violence in Connecticut, casting a pall over any feelings of seasonal cheer. Inside the Verizon Theatre, however, the lobby was abuzz with autograph seekers, tchotchke buyers, youngsters turned loose in search of a good time with friends and a sold-out crowd ready for the annual concert known as How the Edge Stole Christmas.
Shaking off the day's horrors wasn't easy, but a fast-paced evening of energetic indie rock and pop helped dull the pain for a little while. A yearly bookend to the Dallas-based station's annual Edgefest, the Christmas concert favors younger, hipper acts, although the night concluded with the closest thing the bill had to a veteran band.
This gathering of Edge employees was also notable for being the first significant event after the loss of popular program director Josh Venable, who was let go as part of a nationwide reduction in Clear Channel staff just eight days prior.
But if anything seemed amiss, no one on stage let on. Apart from DJ Jessie Jessup's fleeting mention of the day's tragic news prior to fun. taking the stage -- "Love and light to our friends in Connecticut," she said, dressed as a Christmas tree -- there was no acknowledgment of the elementary school killings. Instead, the focus was put squarely upon making sure every person in the room was up and dancing, which nearly every act accomplished with gusto during their 30 to 45-minute sets.
Traffic snarls prevented me from catching the evening's first two bands, IAMDYNAMITE and the Joy Formidable, but I arrived in time to see Passion Pit (returning to North Texas for the second time in three months) tearing through its hit single Take a Walk.
Michael Angelakos and his bandmates knocked out a set identical to the one performed in Arlington earlier this year, which is to say brimming over with exuberant songs and energy to spare. The crowd, clutching glowing necklaces and cell phones outstretched, ate it up. Los Angeles quintet Grouplove, currently enjoying some popularity thanks to its infectious single Tongue Tied, is given to the usual indie rock quirks (bizarre attire, peculiar dance moves) but made a favorable impression during its time on stage.
Critical darlings Metric, playing the final show of its 2012 tour, kept the momentum going, pulling from its most recent LP Synthetica. Guided by vocalist Emily Haines' tough sensuality, the moody post-punk tunes grabbed hold from the opening moments and refused to let go, pummeling the audience into blissful submission.
Newly minted Grammy nominees fun. (likewise wrapping up their 2012 tour, and also returning to North Texas for the second time in nine months) were arguably the night's most anticipated act, thanks to smash hits Some Nights and We Are Young. (The latter song, in particular, took on a decidedly poignant cast in light of Friday's savagery, as the crowd sang the hopeful chorus at full volume.) Frontman Nate Ruess, irrepressible and tireless in his exhortations to sing along, ably replicated his tricky vocal parts from the Some Nights album, and the trio was filled out by three touring members.
Silversun Pickups, which had a hit with Lazy Eye waaay back in 2006, closed out this edition of How the Edge Stole Christmas. The Los Angeles alt-rock foursome excels at squalls of intense sound and foreboding lyrics, which felt strangely comforting Friday night. Call it a purifying blast of sound, eradicating the awful thoughts swirling around one's mind and leaving nothing but the moment -- and the music -- to be enjoyed. Thoroughly sated, the audience spilled out of the Verizon Theatre into a silent night, if not in a more festive mood, then certainly in a holiday-oriented frame of mind.