SURFER BLOOD is actually getting better live, which is a lot considering it was their live act that after 13 or so performances at the CMJ festival last fall propelled them into the national spotlight. Well they’re better now, and it’s painfully obvious even when compared to the other wonderful bands that performed, like BEACH FOSSILS (who themselves were amazing; are always amazing) and THE MORNING BENDERS (their set was really nice). Maybe it was all the touring with ART BRUT and JAPANDROIDS. Whatever the reason, SURFER BLOOD is so so very pro now. Soooo pro. They’re musicianship, already a huge reason for their success, is on point and as crisp as fresh celery. Lead singer J.P. Pitts seems to have become more confident as a frontman, and it has allowed his character to shine through (he was pretty reserved during CMJ and shortly thereafter). And his solo guitar work is flawless.
On Saturday night, SURFER BLOOD was the last to perform in a long line of acts that TODD P brought to the down-low spot at The Market Hotel and its super packed, 800-person audience. They were outstanding. Better than they’ve ever been in NYC. Their set has not changed too much from pre-Astro Coast‘s release. They still open with Floating Vibes, and it’s still the right call. As was mentioned in Right Hear’s review of Astro Coast, that song, the album’s first track, is a perfect introduction to the band. It shows off how tight and talented they are, and that works equally well with earphones or in a live setting. There were two significant differences between this SURFER BLOOD set and those NYC’s seen in months past. One is simple, they now close with Swim, which makes sense considering that it’s their most notable track and what I’d imagine at least half the crowd showed up for. In the past, the boys would alternate between closing with Take it Easy or Anchorage, the album’s two standout tracks. And I stand by what I’ve been saying forever, that Take it Easy is infinitely better live than as it was recorded on the album. And I wonder if Kanine Records should have rerecorded that track before releasing Astro Coast. It is what it is, tho. Maybe they’ll rerecord it in 20 years for their best of release.
The other significant difference ended up being the highlight of the show, and it is clearly reflective of the band’s cognizance of the buzz that surrounds them. At one point during the set, TJ started drumming the intro to WEEZER‘s Undone (the Sweater Song), which as one can imagine was greeted with uproar. Then TJ stopped, and the bassist said something along the lines of “ooooh, stereotypes,” which was met with more uproar. Then after a few seconds of silence the boys gave everyone what they wanted. They launched into Undone in full force. But the lead singer was not J.P., nor was it any other one person. The lead singer was the audience, and believe it or not, Undone sounds amazing that way. We were all on point with our vocals (I actually didn’t sing) and it really took the energy to the next level. This band would have become one of the best stories of 2010 regardless of their live act, based solely on how amazing their album is. But it may actually be their live act that defines them. They’re at the top of the game right now. It really is apples or oranges with SURFER BLOOD. They’re all-around phenomenal, live or in your headphones. If you hear they’re coming to your city, buy tickets immediately. They’re only going to get harder to see. This band is legit next.
by: Brad Horenstein