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The National at Edgefield on 08/30/19 Photos and Review

Story by Sarah Payne / Photos by Liana Kramer //

The National, Alvvays take the stage at Edgefield
Sarah Payne

For nearly 20 years, The National’s front man Matt Berninger has been singing what a lot of us have been feeling, giving voice and rhythm to our inner confusion around love and relationships, the discovery of self, depression and anxiety, and the general state of being a human in this nation and world. If the little of slice of fanbase present at their Edgefield show is any indication, many of us have grown up and grown through major life stages with the help of Berninger and The National, with their lyrics in our heads and their beats in our hearts.

And it’s no wonder – Berninger writes and sings through his own experiences, making sense of life through art and coping using music as therapy. In a 2016 interview with The Independent’s Christopher Hooton, Berninger said, “It’s not that I've figured out answers but being able to put into some form of expression the confusion and the anxiety and the fear and the loneliness and the heartbreak and the desire... you don't solve those things but just by writing them down it helps you sort of own them. The songs I write are sad but they're a way of staying above water.”

The result is a front man who is entirely relatable, with his black-framed glasses, casual presence and endearingly awkward way of moving, indicating a propensity for feeling too much. For many of us, he is all of us. (You might think I’m exaggerating, but it was evident during Berninger’s forays into crowd that for some this concert was akin to a religious experience.)

While it’s nearly impossible to separate The National from Berninger, it would be inaccurate and unfair to pin the band’s success solely on him. The National was formed in Ohio in 2001 by Berninger and brother pairs Aaron and Bryce Dessner, and Scott and Bryan Devendorf, who weave together the instrumental half of The National’s magic.

18 years after releasing their first, self-titled album, the band – which is still comprised of the original five members, plus a touring retinue of three to five more members – has nine albums (eight if you don’t include Cherry Tree) and a Grammy for 2017’s Sleep Well Beast. Their latest album, I Am Easy to Find, was released earlier this year, and features two songs (“Hey Rosey” and “You Had Your Soul With You”) that were solo-written by Berninger’s wife and co-collaborator, Carin Besser. Friday’s set at the Edgefield included both of those songs and highlighted I Am Easy to Find while still managing to throw it back to old favorites from Alligator (“Mr. November,” “The Geese of Beverly Road”), Boxer (“Fake Empire”), High Violet (“Terrible Love,” “Bloodbuzz Ohio,” and a heartfelt fan sing-along to “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks” as the penultimate song), Trouble Will Find Me (“Graceless,” “Don’t Swallow The Cap”) and Sleep Well Beast (“The System Only Dreams in Total Darkness,” “Day I Die,” and “Guilty Party”).

The National was preceded by five-piece Canadian indie-pop group Alvvays (pronounced “Always”), whose front woman Molly Rankin has that type of soft, breathy voice that evokes a sense of nostalgia for something you can’t quite put your finger on, but is pleasant nonetheless. Think the Ramones and Best Coast meet in the 1950s to rock out, and you might just get Alvvays. (I listened to “Archie, Marry Me” on repeat to write this, and that’s as close as I could get to describing the feel.)

Alvvays played a range of songs from their two albums, 2017’s Antisocialites and their 2014 self-titled debut, including “Archie, Marry Me” and “Dreams Tonite,” which earned them a SOCAN songwriting prize nominatin and helped Antisocialites win a Juno Award.

For more about Alvvays, check out alvvays.com. For more about The National, visit americanmary.com.

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