91X’s two-night sold-out holiday extravaganza, WreX the Halls, took place at Valley View Casino Center on Saturday, December 10 and Sunday, December 11. Night one featured a nice selection of mostly mellow bands, while night two was billed as the “greatest punk rock line up” that San Diego has ever seen.
Night one’s opening act, New Zealand’s The Naked and Famous, entertained the still-gathering crowd with some atmospheric, melodic music anchored by lead singer Alisa Xayalith’s fun and casual stage presence. The Naked and Famous ended their set with the hit “Young Blood,” off of the band’s 2010 debut album Passive Me, Aggressive You.
The second act on the bill, L.A.’s The Airborne Toxic Event, was introduced by DJ Capone, who gushed that the band’s members were his favorite four people on the planet. The highlight of their energetic set was a cover of the Clash classic “I Fought The Law,” which lead singer Mikel Jollett dedicated to the LAPD.
Cage the Elephant brought a jolt of energy to the crowd, with lead singer Matt Shultz even diving into the crowd four times for some good ol’ crowd surfing. Other high points during Cage the Elephant’s set included “Shake Me Down” and “Ain’t No Rest for the Wicked,” which garnered enthusiastic cheers from the by-then-mostly-full arena. It was a cold night in San Diego, but Shultz, dressed in jeans and a purple shirt, was drenched in sweat by the end of his performance.
Next up, Manchester rock icon Noel Gallagher sauntered onto the stage, pointed at the crowd without even acknowledging them, grabbed his guitar, and began the set with “The Death of You and Me.” Throughout his set, the crowd showed their appreciation by punching their fists in the air to accentuate key lyrics, bobbing their heads in unison, and holding up their plastic, beer-filled cups to demonstrate their merry approval. Loud cheers and screams erupted when Gallagher and his band launched into the Oasis hit “Wonderwall.” They ended the set with another Oasis hit, “Don’t Look Back in Anger.” As hands and arms swayed, the crowd sang along with the chorus, and beach balls bounced up and down in the pit. This is San Diego, after all.
Following that revelry, indie-rock gods Death Cab For Cutie put on a solid, ten-song set showcasing some of its greatest hits, including “Soul Meets Body,” “You are a Tourist,” “Title and Registration,” and “Cath.” Lead singer Ben Gibbard, sporting what can best be described as a lumberjack look, entertained the crowd by not only singing and playing the guitar, but also by playing piano and drums on a couple of songs. Many of Death Cab’s songs were over five minutes long — not your standard rock fare, for sure. They ended with “Marching Bands of Manhattan,” and received a standing ovation from the loyal crowd.
Then the stage revolved to display the set-up slotted for Florence and the Machine. The presence of light dishes and a harp indicated that this performance was going to have a little more flair than the others. The band was ready, the crowd was cheering, but Florence waited a several minutes to make her grand entrance. When she finally did, the crowd went wild.
Like a musical goddess, Florence twirled, swayed, and leapt across the stage in her red, ankle-length dress with ruffles across her chest. Her strong, bluesy voice was full of dreaminess as she channeled Kate Bush, Enya, and Annie Lennox during “Cosmic Love” and “Shake it Out.” After two songs, she took off her shoes, which resulted in the crowd cheering wildly and women in the stands. No joke. With her shoes off, she could more easily move across the stage like an acrobat or a ballet dancer before launching into the hit “Dog Days Are Over.” The grateful crowd all but fell to their knees, ending a very successful first night for WreX the Halls.
Photos of The Naked and Famous, Airborne Toxic Event, and Noel Gallagher at 91X WreX the Halls, Valley View Casino Center – December 10, 2011
Note: Due to venue/artist restrictions, we were unable to shoot Cage the Elephant, Death Cab for Cutie, and Florence and the Machine. We know, bummer!