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Surfer Blood and The Drums

14 Oct

It’s been a while since I was so excited about a double bill of new bands. I had caught both Surfer Blood and The Drums in unseasonable snap of Texan cold that was South by Southwest earlier this year, and as pleasant and bouncy as I find Surfer Blood, it was really The Drums I was excited about. Neither band failed to delight, though, at the Varsity in what was a great night of some of the purest pop-rock of 2010.

The Dewars, another Florida band (Surfer Blood hails from West Palm Beach) opened the night. Although fronted by twins Anthony and Zachary Dewar, it may as well have been named after the whiskey, as The Dewars made ramshackle bar music for fans of They Might Be Giants. The punning (their available EP is titled “Stories From the Neverglades”) songs and banter weren’t bad, just a little out place given the tightness and pop sheen of the bands to follow.

The Drums took the stage in a giant wall of fog that rendered all the light around them an effervescent, sugary glow, and as Jonathon Pierce strutted his auto-bot fey dance moves and showy baritone around, guitarist Jacob Graham was almost invisible across the stage. The Drums had recuperated from the loss of other guitarist Adam Kressler and reconstituted as a four piece, and it felt like not a beat was lost from the first time I saw them in Austin. Opening with “It Will All In Tears”, their show was so tightly wound and constructed it calls to mind an artfulness- it seemed prescient that the only banter offered by Pierce besides the requisite thank yous and song announcements was, “So this here’s pop music.” Change that “pop” to a “Pop” and that’s the realm that the Drums are operating in- their stage show is a moving Rauschenberg assemblage with elements (surf-rock, Joy Division, a mix of arch and earnest) familiar but elevated by the singlemindedness of the performance. It is exhilarating, as sweet as the whistle-line from “Let’s Go Surfing” and as full of projected potential as “Forever and Ever Amen.” Amen, and benedicite, says Andy.

Surfer Blood wound down the night with their far looser and easier take on surf/indie-rock wave. With the lights up and the band fully visible, the make-up of the crowd had shifted so that there were a few more bros up at the front jostling around with the audience-friendly jams. Tunes like “Twin Peaks” and “Floatation Vibes” got a warm reception as frontman John Paul Pitts wheeled around with a tamer set of dance moves, and percussion & keyboard man Marcos Marchesani added an extra kick to the proceedings. After a huge roar for their hit “Swim”, Surfer Blood ended the show really as any good-time band should- with Marchesani inviting the audience on stage and Pitts jumping into the crowd to play the final notes. If we’re along for the ride, we may as well all jump in and swim.

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