When I first burst onto the music scene, my immediate favorite venue was 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C. I saw Sonic Youth there in 2006 from the balcony and then Albert Hammond, Jr. in 2007 from the floor, and both concerts were some of the best experiences I’ve had. I thought it was the start of frequenting the venue, but a very, very long drought ensued.
Because of my positioning in College Park, I couldn’t join Kevin for the Panda Bear lovefest at Ottobar, so I instead hopped on the Green line and broke my 9:30 Club drought for The Drums and Surfer Blood, two bands that broke onto the scene in 2009 and backed up the hype with great albums in 2010.
I arrived at the venue right at 7:30 to buy my $15 ticket at the door, avoiding $8.75 in service charges, and went right to the front, getting in the second row of people to watch the opener, The Young Friends.
Now a lot of times, bands that have a similar feel are put together to tour, which is exactly what The Young Friends were there for. The three-piece felt like a combination of both The Drums and Surfer Blood. I enjoyed The Young Friends and the high vocals, but the drumming just felt a little off to me, and it was off just enough that I couldn’t get into the music 100 percent.
But The Drums. The Drums. The Drums. The Drums. The four piece blew me away. Just totally. I loved the singles and subsequent album, but live, they were just too much. Too good. From the opening “Best Friend” all the way to the end, every note was on target and I didn’t lost interest for a second. Jonny Pierce has to be one of the rising young frontmen in music today, as it felt like he had every move choreographed for each song. It felt like I was watching Ian Curtis up there, but with less epileptic movement. The Curtis comparison might be a little bit of sacrilege, but there really is no one else that has come to my mind.
The band performed stalwarts such as “Forever and Ever Amen,” “Down By The Water,” and “It Will All End In Tears” to screams from both girls and boys at the show. The one thing I was miffed about in The Drums’s set was the absence of “Let’s Go Surfing” and “I Felt Stupid,” both of which are regarded (at least in my mind) as the two best singles the band has put out. I was a little disappointed by this, but at the same time, I couldn’t be because the band just killed live.
I’m not going to lie, I was mostly going at this show because of The Drums. I’d listened to Surfer Blood’s Astro Coast multiple times when it came out and loved it, but it’d really fallen off my radar in terms of 2010 albums. But hey, two up-and-coming bands touring together? I can’t pass that up. And I wasn’t disappointed as Surfer Blood provided a set bookended by “Fast Jabroni” and “Slow Jabroni” that included TWO (yes, that’s right TWO) encores.
While the band had to overcome sound problems at the start due to some issues with the bass, Surfer Blood rebounded and laid out nearly (if not) all of Astro Coast in addition to two new songs which Right Hear has right here. The band blazed through “Take It Easy,” “Harmonix,” and “Swim” with incredible ease. The high point of the show came for me in the form of my favorite Surfer Blood song “Catholic Pagans.” Here, everything came together and the song was just flawless. So good.
The band left the stage shortly thereafter, but the pleading screams and applause drew the band back to play a song that was “really special” to them. This “really special” song turned out to be none other than “Box Elder” by Pavement. While I didn’t recognize it at first, the performance was on par with the rest of the set. Then the band left. But the crowd kept pleading and pleading, and the band came back yet again for a second encore, something they had never done before. After saying, “This is a really difficult song to play live,” the band launched into “Slow Jabroni,” epically ending the evening.
I said bye to my new friends from George Mason (most alt DC-area university right now) and walked to the merch area wondering what I could possibly buy to commemorate the evening. I was torn between Astro Coast (just look at that album cover) and The Drums. After much debate and waffling I settled on…The Drums (along with a free(?) poster of both bands). For a total of $30 I was able to see a great show and get a great vinyl. Great, great deal.
Overall, this show exceeded my expectations so much. I was expecting a good show from both bands, but was blown away by a GREAT show from both bands. I salute both bands and can’t wait for either of them to come back to the Baltimore/DC area.