The Districts bring high-energy set to Urbana


The Districts perform at the Rose Bowl Tavern Oct.16. The band’s new album “Great American Painting” comes out Feb. 4, 2022.

By Nora Duffy, Contributing Writer

On Saturday, The Districts performed at Rose Bowl Tavern in Urbana. Their new album, “Great American Painting,” comes out Feb. 4.

The band was formed in high school in 2009, inspired by the rock scene in Philadelphia. The Philadelphia-based group consists of lead vocalist and guitarist Rob Grote, drummer Braden Lawrence and guitarist Pat Cassidy. For this show, Lawrence played bass and keyboard while a guest drummer played with the band to fill in for Connor Jakobus, who recently left the band.

The tavern’s doors opened at 7 p.m., and people were welcomed into the venue with music and a soft red glow from the stage. Llo Llo, a Chicago-based grunge rock band, played while the audience trickled in and mingled around the bar.

At 8 p.m., Llo Llo came back to the stage to play original songs and two covers. Charged renditions of Blink-182’s “Dirty Little Secret” and “Dammit” had the audience headbanging, and then the band left the crowd on a somber note with their heart-wrenching “Let Me Know (pt. 2).”

Girlpuppy, an Atlanta-based indie-rock band on their first tour ever, followed this performance at 9 p.m. The five-piece band performed original songs, including “Cheerleader,” “For You” and an unreleased that comes out in April. 

The audience gathered closely in front of the stage to watch Girlpuppy. Faces were splashed with red light, and people swayed to the band’s haunting melodies. Afterward, everyone eagerly pressed closer to the stage in anticipation of the show to come.

The Districts walked onto the stage, Rob Grote in a button-down and the rest of the band wearing classic jeans and T-shirts. They faced each other during the opening notes of “4th and Roebling,” playing off each other’s energy to start the show. Cheers erupted, and excitement rippled through the crowd. “4th and Roebling” is off of The Districts’ second full-length album, “A Flourish and a Spoil,” which was number seven on the Billboard Heatseekers charts. This song set the tone for their exciting show.

Following this hit, they played “Salt.” A mosh pit formed at center stage as Cassidy led the crowd with his enthusiasm.  This electrifying performance was charged with energy, so much so that Cassidy’s beanie flew off as he danced with his guitar.

In an interview leading up to this performance, Grote described the band’s experience with playing music as “really comforting.” He said that performing music is, “in some ways our home.  It’s what we know the best.”

During a break in the show, Grote explained that their car broke down earlier that day.  

“We weren’t sure if we were going to make it,” he said. “But we’re so happy we were able to.”

The band played a few more songs that kept the crowd moving, and then Grote took over the stage to perform the band’s new single “I Want to Feel It All” by himself.

Leading up to the show, Grote spoke about “I Want To Feel It All” and why the band selected it to be the first single released off of “Great American Painting.” 

“I think that song captures a cathartic urgency that I feel the record is trying to approach, and it felt like a good mission statement for what the record’s about,” he said.

The rest of the band returned to the stage to perform a few more songs, including “If Before I Wake” and “Young Blood,” inducing a mosh pit once again.  The moment the band exited the stage, cheers erupted and soon became a chant.

“One more song!” reverberated through the crowd until the band walked back on stage.

A fan cried out “Stairway!” in the hopes of hearing Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven.”

“How did you know we were going to play Stairway?” Grote replied.

“Stairway, Free Bird and Baby Shark, the usual,” he joked before telling the crowd they exceeded all of his expectations for their show.

The band closed out the show with the somber “Funeral Beds” and the hit “Long Distance.”

The Rose Bowl Tavern continues to bring talented musicians to Urbana, and its relaxed, intimate atmosphere allows a true appreciation of music, unifying the audience and performers.

To get more information on upcoming events, visit @RoseBowlTavern on Facebook.

To preorder The Districts’ new album or get information on their upcoming shows, visit their website

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