The Drums - 8/19/15 at Crescent Ballroom

By Mike Vigil

I’ve never seen the Crescent Ballroom with more fans of the 16-21 year old variety. I’ve also never seen a crowd become that much of a part of a show at Crescent Ballroom.

The Drums are an “Indie Pop band from Brooklyn, New York.” But they are so much more than that. It’s hard for me to describe The Drums because I always want to point out the punk energy they have, but as soon as I say the word “punk” to any hipster, I see a subtle facial change. I understand why: the late 90’s and early 2000s (the dark days of music) have sort of ruined the word punk. It became watered down, more of a style choice than an attitude. People tend to think of distorted power chords and dyed black hair. Punk started a little differently though. It was about minimalism; it was an attitude. It was direct lyrics that were not buried in multiple levels of metaphor. Hell, Lorde is more punk rock than Green Day nowadays.

The Drums embody that attitude. It’s no wonder there are so many young people in Phoenix who enjoy the Drums. The difference between the Drums and the modern “Hot Topic punk band” (Blood on the Dance Floor) is staggering. The Hot Topic punk band is closer to Hair Metal than what Punk started out as. It’s over produced, melodramatic, overtly sexual, and way too focused on fashion.

The Drums are an attitude. Direct lyrics like, “I thought that life would get easier // Instead it’s getting harder // Instead it’s getting harder” and “I want to buy you something, but I don’t have any money!”. They bleed authenticity. Every note Jonny Pierce sings live is filled with emotion and lyrical brevity. There is no word wasted: “You’re my best friend, but then you died // When I was 23, and you were 25 // You’re my best friend, but then you died // And how would I survive survive survive…” This level of honesty could be off putting, but the emotion of which it is sung, and the upbeat music behind the lyrics delivers it with a level of tact that few bands can pull off.

Crescent Ballroom is the perfect venue to see the Drums. Although the band consists of only Jonny Pierce (vocals) and Jacob Graham (keys) in studio, the group brings a full band live including bass, drums, keys, guitar, and vocals. The energy from the moment they walked on stage was electric. The younger crowd screamed like they were the Beatles and Pierce played to that nicely. They opened the show with “I Can’t Pretend” which has the ironic opening lyric of, “It’s too hard to begin // When you know it will end.” The band wasted no time getting to the hits off of their three studio released albums, including one of their biggest hits, “Days” which they played third in the set. Early for a hit like that, but the crowd was enraptured completely by the end of the tune. The Drums held the room in the palm of their hand.

I have to give credit to the crowd. I’ve been to countless shows at Crescent Ballroom and never have I seen a crowd participate the way this crowd was. Crowd surfing, group singing, screaming at the start and end of every recognizable song, dancing, and just general fun like smiling and laughing. Pierce in the middle of the set confirmed what I was seeing by saying, “You guys get it… (pause) I’m not sure if Las Vegas got it, but you guys get it”.

The band blazed through hits with their signature Cali-Surf-via-NY sound. The audience knew the majority of the lyrics and sang along with all oohs and ahhs that the band uses regularly. The highlight of the first set was “Book of Revelations,” which is possibly my favorite song by the band and one of the best live. The crowd surfing reached a full crest during the song with fans making their way on stage and jumping back into the crowd with reckless abandonment. One fan even inadvertently kicked the mic right into Pierce’s face during the song which left him completely unfazed, other than a smirk that indicated to the young fan that he was not angry, or injured. I’d say the group seemed to enjoy playing the show in Phoenix noting several times how they couldn’t believe it was a Wednesday. They even played a song requested by a fan online called, “If He Likes It Let Him Do It”.

The encore was fantastic. In order, they played “Make You Mine”, “Forever and Ever, Amen” and the peak of the show, “Let’s Go Surfing,” which was the band's first hit. The crowd knew every word and every single person was dancing. A young female fan made her way on stage and was clearly hesitant to dive back into the crowd when Pierce reached out and hugged her, singing the lyrics with the fan in disbelief. That was all the invitation the young crowd needed and the stage was flooded with excited fans dancing, jumping, laughing, and singing. Pierce loved it, although at the end of the song he stated laughing, “We still have one song left! You have to let us sing our slow jam!” The encore ended with “Down by Water,” which the full crowd and band sang, “If you fall asleep down by the water // Baby I’ll carry you all the way home.” A perfect ending to one of the best sets I’ve seen at Crescent Ballroom.

The combination of a great band playing to a great crowd is unlike anything in art. To describe it is unfair. The feeling in the room is electric, the bands and the fans recognize it together. There is no metaphor. This show captured that feeling. The feeling like, no matter what is happening in the world, it cannot be better than what was happening in that room. A show like this is the reason that people listen to music: the perfect show, with the perfect crowd, at the best venue. The attitude and feeling of early Punk shows of the late 70s and early 80s was re-born by an “Indie-Pop band from Brooklyn, New York.” To them, I say thank you, and to you, I say, go see the Drums. Trust me. 

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