Live Review: Surfer Blood + The Drums @ Common Grounds

In Music on September 25, 2010 at 5:51 pm

Wearing a T-shirt featuring a California Raisin and a headline reading “Surf’s Up” (in ironic contradiction to their protests against the surplus of beachy, surfy media associated with them), J.P. Pitts, the lead singer of Surfer Blood, greeted the crowd.

Surfer Blood -- Photo by: Joe Unander

Athletic gym types and skinny-jean lovers alike crowded into Common Grounds, a small-to-medium-sized venue so dark you can barely make out the various examples of taxidermy slung above the video games.

The congregation remained attentive yet relatively mellow throughout the show, cheering on their fellow Floridians in relaxed swells of enthusiasm upon recognizing a riff. The band bathed in the orange-soda light and returned the innocent, feel-good vibes.
At one point, a friend bespectacled on the order of Ben Gibbard borrowed P.J.’s guitar and accompanied the band, giving farewell kisses to both P.J. and Thomas after returning the instrument to its owner.

(I later tracked down said friend and asked him some questions. With the professionalism of a blogger, I neglected to get the spelling of his name, which could be Brian or Bryan, depending. He grew up with the guys in West Palm and played some music, including a solo project, before deciding to focus on theater at UF. Then, in true stranger fashion, we talked about the weather.)

The group hit some rough patches with the harmonies and one-volume delivery, but no one seemed to care. “Swim,” of course, hit with the biggest reaction. Guitarist Thomas Fekete rounded out the evening by taking a stroll through the crowd. And I couldn’t help notice that the bassist’s shirt sweat resembled an ecstatic smiley face.

Then things started to get interesting. Squishing outward through a narrow doorway against a throng of people moving the opposite direction, I couldn’t help but recognize the brilliantly towheaded lead singer of The Drums keeping a low profile with hunched anonymity and sunglasses.

When The Drums took the stage, the crowd was halved. Blame it on the time: it’s tough for a lot to stay out past midnight on a Monday, and I’m pretty sure the band started at about 12:15 a.m. But those who stayed were there to dance.

We couldn’t take our eyes off of the lead singer, Jonathan Pierce, who can only be legitimately described as a Viking spirit sojourning from Valhalla. A Viking wearing a red satin jacket with green-striped collars and cuffs that complement his short-sleeve green button-up tee and skinny gray pants. Everything was so just-so, he might have been plastic. He looked like he’s stepped out of a Ken Doll box.

The Drums

Pierce didn’t smile once, and his gaze didn’t fall on anyone in particular. Instead he penetrated the crowd with a look of practiced and knowing intensity. In a band with more moody songs, this would have been a completely unbalanced melodrama. Instead the tight, serious delivery of his singular dance moves and standout crooning was a perfect ballast for the band’s sunshiny doo-wop.

The Drums pumped through their set without missing a beat. But they didn’t offer their best-known: “Let’s Go Surfing.” It was around 1 a.m. so we knew they were not going to tease us on the encore too much. Shortly after leaving, the guitarist, Jacob Graham, led the way back to the stage.

The band rewarded us with a full blast of retropop and J.P. surfed the crowd next to us. It was a delightful moment for the dedicated night owls. The cooldown was “Down By the Water,” which reminds me of a very slow-tempo Gene Chandler tune. And then it was over.

In a satisfied, late-night daze, I wandered around with my new friend Nate, with whom I share a love of dancing and a new crush on The Drums’ lead singer, looking for band members and their signatures until we realize how late it was. We parted ways with the most extreme ass-out hug ever.


  1. […] earlier post pretty much covered it all. But what a wonderful way to start off the […]

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