The War on Drugs | photo by John Vettese
“Our Home Away From Home”: Adam Granduciel of The War On Drugs on returning to Johnny Brenda’s this month for A Drugcember To Remember
The Philly band’s hometown benefit concert series returns with three nights at the intimate Fishtown space.
The War On Drugs are going back to Brenda’s.
Today the Philly-born rock heroes announced the return of A Drugcember To Remember, the hometown benefit concert series they launched in 2018. This year it finds them taking the Johnny Brenda’s stage for three nights, from December 19th through December 21st, all to benefit The Fund For The School District of Philadelphia.
The War on Drugs have a long history with the venue; they played opening night at Johnny Brenda’s in 2006, and they occasionally return there as a space for special underplay shows. It’s been four years since they’ve been at JBs, when they kicked off the first Drugcember To Remember there at the tail end of their run supporting A Deeper Understanding. When we caught up with him today on the phone from L.A., frontperson Adam Granduciel sounded positively amped to return home now that a year of touring I Don’t Live Here Anymore is under his belt.
“That was my old neighborhood!” he says. “Basically, my entire time in Philly — 14 years — I lived a block from Brenda’s, right around the corner on Howard Street.”
Granduciel told us about what they’ve got planned for this year’s Drugcember, from the raffle at the shows to the online memorabilia auction that anyone in the world can partake in — whether or not they’re able to get tickets and get to the gig. Items up for grabs include a Golden Ticket good for a pair of tickets to any headline show from The War on Drugs for the next five years, signed memorabilia from Philadelphia professional sports teams, signed instruments from The War on Drugs and more. He also talked about the feeling of returning home, finding out how directly these shows support Philly schools, about Drugcember’s Gremlins-themed show poster, and more.
Listen to our full conversation above, and check out some excerpts below. Tickets for A Drugcember To Remember go on sale Friday, December 2nd at 10 a.m.; buy tickets for Night One here, for Night Two here, and for Night Three here.
On adapting their live show for the tiny Johnny Brenda’s stage…
We won’t have our full [setup], obviously, the thing we’ve been touring with. But we’re going to have our show in some capacity, it’s not going to be acoustic. And I think doing three nights, what’s cool is we can do certain songs in three different ways, which is something we do in rehearsal sometimes. So we can have fun, I think, with how we present the songs, but we’re gonna have, generally, the show! It’s gonna be a little more crammed, but we’ll figure a way. John’ll be on Eliza’s shoulders, and I’ll be suspended from the ceiling maybe. Who knows!
On what Johnny Brenda’s means to them as a band…
From the day that place opened, when it was just a bar, before they built the upstairs…we were there. All of our friends, we met our friends there, that was the place after band practice you’d go have a beer. And then they build the second story, with the stage. … It’s always been a huge part of the neighborhood that I came up in in Philly. And it’s a great place, it’s always been run by the best people. It’s just a one-of-a-kind bar and venue. …And we just have a lot of great memories of things we’ve done there, shows we’ve seen there. It’s our little home away from home.
On supporting the Fund for the School District of Philadelphia…
I found out, I had been reminded, of what kind of stuff our money had directly helped with the first two years. It was like, we got school uniforms for one of the schools, and for another school we paid for a new set of lockers, and there was another school we had helped the music program with. It was like really directly, you know, it was a focused sort of donation; it’s been a really nice partnership and we’re really excited.
On the surprises of late-tour gigs and taking inspiration from Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers…
It’s just a great opportunity to play everything you’ve done this year and definitely open up some deep cuts. We have a whole list of covers we want to play and songs we’ve always talked about trying to play one night. It’s gonna be fun! I remember years ago, when I lived in Oakland, my buddy had cassette tapes from when The Heartbreakers did 24 nights at The Fillmore. And we’d sit around listening to those cassettes, and it felt like a band doing a small little residency, just having a lot of fun, jamming, trying some stuff out, playing their songs, playing to their fans. So I’m kind of taking a little bit of inspiration from that.
For more, watch The War on Drugs cover “Straight Into Darkness” by Tom Petty with Hop Along’s Frances Quinlan, Tim Heidecker, and Jelloman at Drugcember 2018; you can also read a recap of 2019’s Drugcember To Remember show at Union Transfer