The Walkmen; Is a very personal experience, I discovered The Walkmen during one of the darkest moments of my life. They seemed to appear out of nowhere, like a ray of hope. At that time, our car could only play the radio. It was summer, the windows were down, and there was no air conditioning as we drove down a sweltering highway in Europe when, out of all the radio noise, "The Rat" came on.
The song stopped me dead in my tracks.
The lyrics belted:
"When I used to go out, I would know everyone that I saw.
Now I go out alone if I go out at all."
The song had me completely captivated, encapsulating the emotions of anger, nostalgia, and the confusion that comes with a perpetually evolving music scene. People leave, and new ones take their place; the scene endures, but its inhabitants change. The song also resonated with me on a more personal level, reflecting the complexities of a difficult relationship I was in at the time.
The intensity of the drums and the Bob Dylan-esque vocals left me utterly obsessed with The Walkmen. While living in Lisbon at the time, I would stroll through the city center with "Lisbon," the album, as my soundtrack. I really also loved songs like "Canadian Girl," "Blizzard of 96," and my ultimate favorite,
"Bows and Arrows,". I often practiced singing to these songs near the Tagus River at night, with no one around at night. These songs saved me at the darkest point in my life and gave me the courage to persevere when I thought I'd never make it through. It was my dark night of the soul and the walkmen were part of the light that got me through.
What truly stood out about The Walkmen, apart from their remarkable musical talent, was their innovative use of melody, phasing, delays, reverbs, and unique percussions. They crafted a complete world with their instruments in your ears.Their sound was diverse, sometimes ambient, occasionally angry, and at other times euphoric or even playful. These sounds served as a wellspring of inspiration for my own music. The lyrics told stories, and the vocals felt relaxed yet incredibly intricate and intense at the same time. Only truly skilled musicians could achieve such a delicate balance.
Although my journey with The Walkmen began with my love affair with "Bows and Arrows," it helped mature my musical taste, pushing it to evolve and embrace a modernized world music approach. The band's focus on layers of sound and dynamic exploration was reminiscent of what I loved about bands like Nirvana and the Pixies, but The Walkmen brought a seasoned approach to their craft.
Ironically, the same year I discovered them, the band went on hiatus. During this period, I delved deeper into the New York music scene, finding it to be a rich source of inspiration. From the underground and gritty punk scene to the scandalous electronic music, and the explosion of indie rock in the 2000s with bands like The Strokes, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, and Moldy Peaches, it all played a significant role in my musical journey.
I learned that the members of The Walkmen, originally from Washington, DC, had ventured to the Big Apple to chase their musical dreams. I observed parallels to many bands in Toronto, where artists from small towns move to the big city to follow their aspirations. The Walkmen had their roots in an incredible band called Jonathan Fire Eater and played a pivotal role in shaping the early indie rock scene in New York City. Later Jonathan Fire Eater broke up and The Walkmen emerged from the remaining members.
Everything happens for a reason, and their story is profoundly inspiring. Hearing their stories of sleeping on couches on tour, living together in an foreign city to follow their dreams, leaving their families and security behind inspired me to want to help other musicians.
This inspiration serves as the driving force behind Critical Zero, defining why I do what I do, and why we do what we do. Our mission is to give a voice to bands we genuinely believe in and help music fans discover them, just like I discovered the walkmen and it changed my life.
After waiting for what seemed like a lifetime in 2022 they announced their first global tour. This was a momentous occasion, as they sold out four shows at Webster Hall and added a fifth. Pedro and I wasted no time and immediately bought tickets for April and headed to New York City to attend their show. It was a magical experience. I literally cried as this band played, filling the entire Webster Hall with the most beautiful, rich, and pure sound I’ve ever heard. It was even better than I could have imagined.
Later, they announced a Toronto date to our surprise, and we felt compelled to review it because we genuinely believe that everyone should know this band. I was fortunate enough to secure a media pass for photos and a review — truly a dream come true.
We brought along one of our good friends, Sota, who had never even heard of the band. He paid $60 for the show, and we were immensely grateful for his trust in us. We headed to the show at "History", which was our first time at the venue since we typically report on more underground, community-based events. Jane from History was lovely, and the security team was wonderful and helpful. We had an incredible experience with them. We filled up on delicious pizza at the bar and eagerly waited for the band to begin.
When the set started, it felt surreal to be in the photo pit. As a professional, I focused on technical aspects and framing the shots.. However, halfway through the three song rule, it hit me like a ton of bricks — this is "The Walkmen." It was incredibly challenging to photograph because this was one of the best moments of my life. It was difficult to separate the photographer from the fan. In between shots, I cheered, and honestly, when I eventually pass away, this will be one of my most cherished memories. The light, the atmosphere was moody, dark, passionate and bright at times. History did an incredible job with sound and lights. They helped create the perfect moment, in fact this was more impactful than Webster Hall.
Hamilton talked about when they played to an empty show at the Silver Dollar the first time they played in Toronto. At that moment, I thought about how many bands out there play to empty shows, especially outside their hometown. Toronto has a well of talent, and I thought about how inspiring this moment was.
It reminded me that if you have heart and keep working on your art, you can achieve anything. Where once was an empty room, they now fill a 2,500 venue full of people who have such love and passion for the band.
People sang along to the lyrics, and I've never witnessed such joy and pure passion in people’s eyes as Hamilton Leithauser belted out lyrics that gave us all goosebumps. The band swapped instruments throughout the set, showcasing their full hearts and talents. Paul Maroon (guitar, keyboards), Walter Martin (bass, organ), Peter Matthew Bauer (organ, bass) and Matt Barrick (drums).
During "The Rat," a mosh pit erupted in the middle of the crowd. They played many of my favorites, including "Blue as Your Blood," "Angela Surf City," "Wake Up," and concluded the night with "Canadian Girl" and "Heaven." Hamilton climbed down into the photo pit and touched everyone's hands at the end of the show. It was a magical experience.
In conclusion we asked Sota how he liked The Walkmen since it was his first experience. He said couldn’t believe how great they were and he said hadn't felt that way at a show in a long time and as we speak, he is discovering the entire discography of The Walkmen.
The only heartbreaking part of the night for me was that they had sold out of the vinyl I wanted to buy — the album that had started it all, saved me, and changed my life: "Bows and Arrows." I left the venue with a mix of disappointment and happiness, knowing that it was one of the most incredible nights of my life. Thank you to "History" and the management of The Walkmen for giving us this incredible moment in time.