Surfer Blood - 1/7/16 at Crescent Ballroom

By Mandi Kimes

Last time I saw them, they were opening for Young the Giant at Comerica Theatre, and I remember thinking Cayucas was boring to watch live, but it was probably because that stage was too big for them at the time. When the band entered the stage, the members of Cayucas were dressed as an episode of SNL's "The Californians,” like a combination of Beach Boys and Mac DeMarco.

The first song is the one from their Bigfoot album “East Coast Girl”. The musicality is kicked up a notch from the album, but the vocals are still monotonous. They moved into "Cayucos" and it is exceptionally dancy in person. The band added a long dynamic instrumental break in the end of the song, which added some spice to what the song was lacking on the record. Drummer Jay Clancy is extremely tight. By the time “Cayucos” is finished, the ballroom is almost completely filled.

Third song in is when they begin introducing the new songs from their 2015 Dancing at the Blue Lagoon album with "Moony Eyed Walrus". I'm glad they got rid of the random "oohs" in the bridge, because when listening to their records, I got the sense that this band uses “ooh” and “woah” too much. The lead singer than stated, "We're gonna play some beach music for you now," which is weird because I thought they're music was already beach music. During their fourth song, I began to grow tired. Beach music makes me sleepy. Is it supposed to make me sleepy? Before I fell asleep, the singer moved from guitars to keys to add a super ballad-like sound to the beachy tune. They woke me up by playing “Hella” immediately after, and it’s in this moment that I realize that the drummer is probably the best part of the set, because he didn’t miss a beat (literally) from the record.

I was pleasantly surprised when they introduced their next song as a “chill song” before going into my favorite Cayucas song: “Deep Sea”. I was even more surprised because I didn’t expect them to play this song! Maybe the reason I love this song is because it's so different than their other songs. It's got piano, whistles, and a harpsichord sound on guitar. They even added a bass solo on outro for Deep Sea, which the singer added "I think every set should have a bass solo…so does Spencer (the bassist)."

Their single, "Dancing at the Blue Lagoon," started off slow with just one guitar before kicking into usual the tempo. Lots of people were dancing, as it's a Latin-inspired dance song. It is definitely one of their best songs live. Band was definitely in sync with each other. After the song finished, they added, "That song KILLS in Florida."

Surfer Blood started set with a song I didn't recognize. J.P. Pitts' vocals sounded had a bit of twang when he sang. They moved into "Island," which was in a lower key than what was on the record. It's always so interesting to hear songs live that you've listened to on repeat and compare what elements are missing or embellished. This song was met with collective head nods across the ballroom. Without intending to, “Island” progressively slowed down throughout the whole song.

During "We Are Chiefs," I realized how Pitts really has a cool way of writing vocal melodies over catchy rock hooks. After the song finished, Pitts stated, "This is our fastest song," which was met with an aptly-warned fast-paced song met with lots of head banging. It's apparent that Fugazi is an influence. When Pitts is playing a fast, arpeggiated solo, he doesn't even look at his guitar when his fingers are moving over the strings. They introduced “Point of No Return” as a new song from their latest album. The drums play a lot of clicks and hi hat as bass resonates through the room. The pulsating dueling guitars were infectious, to the point that when the guitars play together they look at each other like they're having a conversation.

Before moving into what ended up being the crowd favorite, he introduced the song as "My favorite song - it's about staying shape on tour. It’s called ‘Take It Easy’." Pitts commanded the stage, until he went into the audience and danced along with them. The song ended after the first chorus to introduce the band, until he moved onto second chorus. The next song was "Demon Dance," which was even more electrifying live, even though the yelling part at the end wore out Pitts.

Everyone began dancing when “Floating Vibes” started playing. The bass really reverberated even more on this song. I never realized how 50s influenced this song was until seeing it live. The ending missed the orchestra embellishments, but that's okay. The song for they dedicated to Thomas (which they started saying "If you're watching: we love you") called "Covered Wagons" is the rockin’ blues ballad of the set, similar to The Beatles’ "Ticket to Ride" or Pearl Jam's "Where Could My Baby Be?"

Next song is opening track to 1000 Palms. Some of the songs are in different keys than the album, so I don't think the band is used to the new keys and it starts to sound muddled. They transitioned into "Swim (To Reach the End)," which had everyone dancing and head banging, so much head banging! For some moments there was so much head banging and arms thrown up in the air, I thought I was at the Nile Theater. They ended the set with my absolute favorite, which they changed the key to D for a more sentimental sound. The outro “I Can’t Explain” drew out into a dynamic, long instrumental breakdown, similar to the one you’d hear in Peter Bjorn & John’s “Up Against the Wall”. When they returned for their encore, they had everyone dancing with their catchy “Gravity,” while everyone was singing along.


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