At the end of October I finally— finally— got to see a concert I’ve been looking forward to for months: WALK THE MOON. I saw them in Chicago for their Dream Plane Tour, which has been leading up to their newest album Heights, dropping on Nov. 12. This was my third time seeing them, and it just reaffirmed what I already know: that WALK THE MOON is a criminally underrated band.

WALK THE MOON has been my favorite band since I was in high school. I didn’t know I could be so invested in a band before them, and for me, they’ve lived up to that standard for the last seven years, consistently dropping great music, putting on phenomenal live shows and all around just having a good vibe. Their music is about love and freedom and the joy of being yourself, expressed through irresistible dance songs like the new single Can You Handle My Love??, and exquisite ballads like I Can Lift a Car. 

Their music is a fun, eclectic blend of alternative/indie, pop and electronic. Some songs are upbeat, some are more vibe-y and slow, and all of them are heartfelt and personal. No track sounds the same, but every track sounds like WALK THE MOON. 

In my experience, most people first encountered WALK THE MOON in 2014, when their single Shut up and Dance was released. Overnight, it became one of those vaguely annoying pop culture phenomenons, like Carly Rae Jepson’s Call Me Maybe or Viva La Vida by Coldplay. You could hear it playing on three different radio stations simultaneously; it played in commercials and was on every school dance playlist. As a super-catchy, danceable tune that charted all around the world, Shut Up and Dance seemed like the hit to make WALK THE MOON to a household name.

And they are— to an extent. Everyone has heard that song (cool people also know their other popular song, Anna Sun). But generally, when I tell people that WALK THE MOON is my favorite band, that’s what I hear: “Oh, I just know that one song.” 

It is a great song. But the amount of great songs— especially on that album, TALKING IS HARD— that WALK THE MOON has produced seems disproportionate to their popularity. I mean, they’re definitely successful, with five amazing albums and a dedicated fanbase. But I don’t understand why more people aren’t completely enamored with them. Besides those two mainstream songs and maybe a few other singles, WALK THE MOON didn’t get to the level of fame that other musicians with a similar instant hit have.

Maybe Shut Up and Dance became too popular and people decided it was “too mainstream,” or whatever excuse people use to seem cool. Or maybe the band has a boundary set by choice. I certainly enjoy that they play small, intimate venues instead of stadiums, and that they are able to meet and greet with the fans. Who knows, they might prefer that as well.

This concert was at The Vic Theatre in Chicago, a small venue in an artsy district of the city. I arrived an hour and a half early and secured a decent place in line. It was the first time I’ve ever gone solo to a concert— and I actually loved it. I thought it would be awkward being by myself, but it didn’t matter because concerts are naturally a communal experience. I made a friend in the pit who let me squeeze up next to him up front, and we talked about our favorite songs and other concerts while we waited. And when the lights went down we were one crowd, one body of energy instead of a bunch of individual people listening to music. I’ll never forget screaming the lyric “Well I hope you like it in Chicago” with 300 other people, in the city of Chicago. 

When my favorite songs were played, I was present and let the music carry me wherever I needed to go, whether it was head-banging my face off, or closing my eyes and feeling my soul leave my body (their song Tiger Teeth pretty much guarantees this). I didn’t have to worry about anyone else but me and them. 

I didn’t know what people meant when they would say “This song saved my life” until I heard WALK THE MOON, specifically their song Portugal. It’s from TALKING IS HARD (the same album Shut Up and Dance is on). The song is about growing up and changing and looking back at who you used to be with love, knowing that it made you who you are now. I decorated my college graduation cap with lyrics from this song, and when I traveled to Portugal a few years ago, I almost got it tattooed. I can’t articulate in a smart way why I love this song so much. It just feels like it was written for me.

I don’t film performances live because I like to experience them. Sometimes I close my eyes, or I watch and imagine they’re singing it straight to me. At this most recent show, they opened with it. The influence of putting Portugal first? Unmatched. There I was, just casually waiting for the concert to start, feeling totally neutral, and then the lights go down and my favorite song of all time starts with its funky little synthesizer intro. I went from 0 to a thousand in an instant. 

They are so fun to watch as well. Lead singer Nicholas Petricca fully embodies what WALK THE MOON is all about: celebrating who you are and expressing yourself joyfully. His dance moves are infectious; he’s like a little ball of sunshine up there. The rest of the band— original members Eli Maiman on guitar and Sean Waugaman on drums, plus interim bassist Lachlan West— have amazing chemistry onstage. Not only are they skilled musicians, but they are incredibly talented live performers: captivating, fully into it.

Concerts are my happy place. I usually spend a little extra money and time on tickets, opting for the pit and arriving as early as possible to reduce the chance of being stuck behind someone tall. To me, there is just no state of being that is more free and joyful than dancing in the mosh pit, screaming along to the lyrics with hundreds of strangers— especially when those lyrics are the beloved words of your favorite band, coming straight at you, unfiltered from 10 feet away. And with live music being gone for so long due to the pandemic, I’ll be seeking those moments even more often.

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    Breagh is a yoga teacher, actor and writer currently living in Chicago, IL. She is passionate about fantasy novels, sitcoms, theatre and health/wellness, and is excited to share her passions with The Tempest!