The gym in Skidmore’s Williamson Sports Center turned into a high school dance Friday night—one of those sloppy, alcohol-fueled high school dances that usually cause schools to reconsider their stance on them and result in lots of heads in toilets, attempting to discreetly vomit in locker room bathrooms, failing miserably. But, hey, the crowd was not predominantly high school students, but rather (young) college students. They can do as they damn well please. But that, however, sometimes meant reducing indie rock veterans TV on the Radio to nothing more than the dance’s local DJ, soundtracking the make-ups and break-ups and make-outs that scattered across Williamson’s gym floor.
All this is a distraction from the actual show at hand—which involved TV on the Radio rattling off a 90-minute set that was as good and tight as you’d expect from a band of their stature—but the crowd was distracting from the show at hand. A few weeks ago, Village Voice editor Maura Johnston wrote a post titled, “How to Behave at a General Admission Concert If You Are on a Date (One in a Series, Maybe)” with bolded text screaming, “If you’re going to spend more than three songs in a row making out, you should probably move to the back of the crowd.” I’m looking right at you, Young Couple that seemed to follow me everywhere. It’s like they wanted to make out on top of me, rather than just next to me. Of course, Young Couple is really just a stand-in for all the other couples that couldn’t keep their hands off each other for less than the duration of even the night’s shortest songs. Also troubling was the student body’s apparent desire to uphold Skidmore’s sterling reputation of spending copious amounts of their (parents’) money on drugs. Remember when people used to do coke in the bathroom? Man, those were the days.
The crowd was not a net negative, though. TV on the Radio has an ability to turn what would be standard indie fare in the hands of a less capable band into something resembling a dance floor anthem when held in their own. The young, active crowd respected this fact and danced, swayed, and occasionally moshed—weakest moshing I’ve seen, by the way, one big cuddle-fest—to career-spanning tracks like set-opener “Halfway Home,” “Staring at the Sun,” the career-launching, main-set-closing “Wolf Like Me,” and a cover of Fugazi’s bass-heavy “Waiting Room,” which showcased the recently-added Jaleel Bunton, who has been folded into the TV on the Radio mix after the passing of the band’s former bassist, Gerard Smith, this past April.
Tucked into the latter quarter of the night’s set was “DLZ,” the short, no-nonsense, penultimate track off of Dear Science. With respect to the likes of “Family Tree” and “Staring at the Sun,” this song is arguably their best piece of work. It’s quintessential TV on the Radio: It’s heavy and unchained and impossible to stop. Vocalist Tunde Adebimpe twirls his hands skyward, yelling at the “Death Professor.” This is the band at their peak, at their tightest. Impossibly high walls of guitar and bass and trombone (!) filled the gym to the rafters. Adebimpe belts some more. Instruments squeal. Then it ends.