Surfer Blood and The Drums Go Crowd Surfing at Grand Central, September 18

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The Drums
With The Young Friends and Surfer Blood
At Grand Central, Miami
Saturday, September 18, 2010

Better than: Goin' surfin'.

The Review:
People who eternally run late to everything, take note: When Grand Central says the show starts at 7 p.m., they mean it. The lines were already wrapped around the block when we arrived at 6:30, and doors opened promptly at 7. The Young Friends took to the stage a little after 7:15, fresh-faced and pumped. About 50 under agers rushed to be front and center for them -- half of them probably thinking they were Surfer Blood or the Drums -- while the older set sat this one out on the neighboring couches.

The Young Friends' stuck to business, jumping right in and playing their hearts out with songs like "Downtown" rounding out their short set list. It was so short, actually, that instead of talking to the crowd, they took to singing us messages like "nice to meet you, but we have to leave soon." Aww. The band didn't really interact with the kids, but that didn't really seem to bother 'em. They still jumped up and down like this was their first rock show -- and it probably was.

At 8 sharp the LED lighting behind the stage glowed in all shades of red as the Jurassic Park theme song played over the speakers. We half-laughed at the thought of it, but it seemed like the perfect choice to help newcomers realize how far Surfer Blood really has come. We worried that they'd mention the incident that took place the first time they played the venue back in June, but they didn't. A few songs in, they even said, "It's good to be back at Grand Central," proving they've put it all behind them. The band was completely professional, and played with quite possibly the most energy we've ever seen from them.

Right off the bat, we noticed a new member on stage. It seems that their bassist has now been replaced by the Dewars' very own Kevin Williams. They started their set with "Some Kind of Hate," a refreshing take on the Misfits, in lieu of a sea of recent Cranberries covers from other South Florida shows as of late. The crowd piled in, and the under 21 set started impromptu moshing around the corners of the venue. We could tell lead singer J.P. Pitts felt our energy, making comments like, "It's like a Folgers commercial, the whole town waking up together."

Pitts talked to the crowd constantly, and some female fans jumped on stage to dance with him mid-song through "Take it Easy." A short-haired girl (who we'll revisit later) was the last to leave, making sure she kissed Pitts on the cheek before making her exit. "This has never happened before," says Pitts, before he jumped right into "Twin Peaks."

Bubbles started to fill the venue, and after the song, Pitts mentions, "We've come a long way, but we still operate our own bubble machines" to uproarious cheers. The fans that were there last night were definitely die-hard, and just added that much more to their performance and overall stage presence. Temporary mosh pits continued to break out throughout the crowd as "Floating Vibes" started, and when they offered up a new song for us (which you can watch on the video below), arms raised instantly. Pitts joined the masses and crowd surfed, seemingly enjoying every minute of it.

Pitts then brought the previously mentioned short haired girl on stage for a song after giving her a shoutout, and she proceeded to dry hump practically every member on stage, flip us all the finger, and just overall add to their positive dance-your-ass-off vibe (video below).

In between all of the chaos, we hoped for some instrument solos, and finally got them during "Anchorage." The audience clapped with the beat, almost on key. When Pitts sung the final song with lyrics like "I had to get the fuck out of this town because I have a lot of things to do/ A lot I'd like to do," they were almost prophetic, considering where they were singing them. We didn't want them to stop.

When the Drums took to the stage, all was dark and silent. They opted out of using the powerful LED lighting backdrop, instead playing with a minor light that was sometimes aimed at lead singer Jonny Pierce. Was all of this to try to add a somber tone because they'd just announced recently that their guitarist Adam Kessler quit? Maybe he was just getting a feel for the crowd, as it was their first show in Miami. We weren't sure, but we could definitely feel the mood shift away from happy surf rock at first.

The Drums jumped right into their set, and Pierce's dark stares and deadpan facial expressions were half intriguing, half eerie. We couldn't help but wonder if he was trying to channel Ian Curtis the way he posed and hung on to the mic. After they got through their first song, their energy picked up, though, as guitarist Jacob Graham took to dancing and jumping around almost like a jumping bean, and Pierce's serious stares transformed and became part of their allure. "We really need synths onstage," Pierce mentioned, as he powered through songs like "Forever and Ever, Amen."

The Drums left the stage, waiting for us to root them back on, but instead heard "Surfer Blood! Surfer Blood!" coming from the audience. Uh-oh. But they took to the stage anyway, playing an amazing encore with their hits "Let's Go Surfing" and "Down by the Water." The crowds went particularly nuts for them, crowd surfing incessantly. We even caught Surfer Blood following suit, with Pitts and drummer Tyler Schwarz Marcos Marchesani diving right in to the massive audience during "Let's Go Surfing." The only downfall of the evening? The show ended promptly at 10 p.m., just in time for the under age crowd to make curfew.    

Critic's Notebook

Personal Bias: This is my third time watching Surfer Blood live, and I'm a big Drums fan, to boot.

The Crowd: Tons of under agers, hipsters, 20-somethings, and parents.

Overheard in the Crowd: Someone pointing at a middle-aged couple: "You know that old guy is totally gonna get some tonight. It's date night."

Random Detail: There was a guy sitting in a corner couch, headphones on, watching videos on his phone during The Young Friends' set. Really?

Random Detail #2: As I walked by the line to get in, I noticed a line of minivans lined up right next to it, with kids jumping out ... almost felt like they were being dropped off at soccer practice.

Random Detail #3: Surfer Blood's #1 fan was dancing frantically in front of me, arms raised for the entire set, and jumping up while spinning in circles.

Surfer Blood Set List
"Some Kind of Hate" (Misfits cover)
"Fast Jabroni"
"Take it Easy"
"Twin Peaks"
"I'm Not Ready"
"Floating Vibes"
New Song
"Catholic Pagans"

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