Photo: Ryan Mac
It was a night of sharing for Surfer Blood. The band from West Palm Beach, Florida shared the stage with three–yes, three–openers. They shared their instruments with audience members. And the crowd shared some insights of their own (one observant woman yelled out, “Your fly’s open!” to which lead singer JP Pitts did a quick XYZ fix.)
On Saturday night, arguably the most mellow of a packed 2012 Noise Pop, Surfer Blood was the main attraction, pulling in both Fake ID holders and 40-somethings to a sold-out show at The Independent. In its 20th year of existence, the San Francisco February fixture had already hosted the likes of The Flaming Lips and Bob Mould. Day Five was left to a band from a younger generation, with plenty of dressings before the main course.
The She’s opened the night to a nearly empty venue with ticket-holders cognizant of the daunting three opening sets. The home town all-girl four piece performed admirably, however, offering up a style of saccharin sweet surf pop that recalls The Like, also of all-female fame. Welshwoman Cate Le Bon did less to inspire. Haunting but unmoving, Le Bon’s dark songs were a stark contrast to the opening opener, and wasn’t exactly what crowd members were hoping for in the long wait. Anacortes, Washington’s The Lonely Forest rounded out the openers with a consumate set that claimed the biggest cheers from a swelling crowd. Heading a band signed to Chris Walla’s label, Trans, lead singer John Van Deusen had a voice that channelled Walla bandmate and fellow Washington native, Ben Gibbard, who closed out this festival last year. Singing of shrooms, Pacific Northwest rain and everything in between, The Lonely Forest paired Van Deusen’s unfittingly angelic voice with rapid percussion and grunge chords to great effect.
Two-and-a-half hours and three bands later, Surfer Blood finally took the stage, albeit one member short than when we last saw them at Treasure Island. Sans former touring member, Marcos Marchesani, the foursome looked short of initial energy and character–perhaps it was the missing ‘fro and glasses. Tired from waiting, the audience didn’t seem to care, vibing to opener “Floating Vibes” before being treated to new songs such as “St. Patricks Day.” With plenty of touring behind then, Surfer Blood used The Independent as a test lab, unleashing a number of never-before-heard tracks speckled between Astro Coast offerings. Nothing hit as hard as the first album, however, with “Twin Peaks” inciting the biggest of cheers after the experimentation.
The highpoint of the night came after Pitts called for the introduction of the “contest winner” before handing over his guitar to one stoked dude, who lapped up the 15 minutes of fame by slamming out the familiar scales to “Take It Easy.” With his girlfriend pushing through the crowd (“That’s my boyfriend, the contest winner!”), he couldn’t have been more stoic. It wouldn’t be the last time the band handed over their guitars.
After closing out with the obligatory “Swim” and returning for the encore (“We’re easily convinced,” said Pitts), the foursome made their final good-byes with “Neighbor Riffs,” then “Anchorage.” After extending the jam on the final song, guitarist Thomas Fekete handed over his guitar to the crowd before leaving, allowing one man to add to the din, probably without knowing what he was doing. It was an awkward end, but for Surfer Blood, sharing is caring.
Surfer Blood- I’m Not Ready (download)