The Drums – The Independent 10/14/2011 [Review]

The stage at The Independent last Friday night was marked with the word “Portamento,” spelled out in white light bulbs, separated in half by a large draped flag with “The Drums” emblem on it in the middle. I was standing pinned to the stage with a good friend who attends live music shows less frequently than I do, so I was eager to show her a good time. Having never before seen The Drums perform live myself, I was willing to take full responsibility if the show didn’t live up to her expectations. Luckily, despite our shared frustrations on waiting for over thirty minutes under the hot lamps in a thick and sweaty crowd after io echo’s mood setting opening set, I instead found myself responsible for bringing her to a really excellent live show. The band came out dressed in hipster threads (mostly tight T-shirts and jeans), with synth player Jacob Graham sporting a dapper getup and front man Jonny Pierce in a laid-back, unbuttoned short-sleeve and slacks. The band leapt into some songs off Portamento, their newly released album, and Pierce began to sing and dance in his captivating, awkward sway.

Jonny Pierce of the Drums. Photo by Katie Kopacz.

Some bands are successful in evoking not only a distinct sound and image, but also a personality that resonates with the audience. The Drums has this charismatic presence, partly thanks to Pierce’s radiant persona. It’s not only Pierce’s appearance that gives him the vibrancy of an indie rock star (the whole band sports that look)–though his innate strangeness, floppy beach blonde hairdo and enormous eyes do draw intrigue–it’s his polished new wave style voice that really reels me in. This aspect bears resemblance to bands like The Smiths, which causes folks to think about Morrissey’s iconic vocals rather instantaneously. Unsurprisingly, The Drums cite The Smiths as one of its musical influences. The band’s style of indie rock echoes certain other pop, post-punk ’80s bands like Orange Juice and New Order. In fact, the whole band has a very distinctly nostalgic sound that is also quite modern, especially with Portamento embracing even more synthesizer reverberations than The Drums’ self-titled first record.

The Drums. Photo by Katie Kopacz.

One of the notable moments during the performance was when The Drums performed “Best Friend,” a song that juxtaposes an upbeat tone with lyrics like “How will I survive?” Before bursting into the song, Pierce approached the microphone and announced, “This is a song about my dead best friend.” Though it’s somewhat quirky to explain the context of the song when it’s already in the lyrics, doing so instantly rooted the performance in more truth than it would have otherwise had, adding to its deeply haunting quality. From then on, many songs in the show carried the open-hearted feel of diary entries, giving a peek into the band’s inner philosophies in confessional tracks like “Book of Revelations” and “I Need A Doctor.”

Other pleasers included hits like “Money,” and “Forever and Ever Amen,” which inspired everyone in the whole packed-in audience who wasn’t already dancing to get on their feet. The crowd also got dancing during the lesser known track “Days,” which surely gained some popularity that night. I think we were all feeling the band’s energetic vibes via the way Pierce danced with reckless abandon. In fact, he was so carefree that at one point he yelled “How are you doing tonight, Seattle?” instantly followed by many sincerely sung apologies and the affirmation: “I promise I know where I am right now, San Francisco.”

The Drums. Photo by Katie Kopacz.

I originally thought “Down by the Water” was a cover of a slow mid-20th century pop song because the lyrics and guitar conjure smooth tones of early 1960s surf rock. Performed as part of the band’s encore, the song was a strong way to end the night and leave us all feeling successful.


The Drums Official Website

The Independent Official Website

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About Katie Kopacz
Blog Intern. Creative Writing student at San Francisco State University. When she's not busy with one of the aforementioned occupations, Katie can be found geeking out over good music, good food, conspiracy theories, cats, and well-written words.

2 Responses to The Drums – The Independent 10/14/2011 [Review]

  1. Pingback: Treasure Island Music Festival 10/15-10/16 2011 [Review] | eventseekr blog

  2. Pingback: Treasure Island Music Festival 10/15-10/16 2011 [Review] « eventseekr

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