All words: Travis Andrews — All photos: Farrah Skeiky
The Rock N Roll Hotel’s pretty quiet, which shouldn’t surprise anyone: it’s 8 p.m. on a Tuesday. New York-based Blonds take the stage with a simple 23 people mulling around, drinking those cheap PBR tall boys as they prepare to get good and drunk for Surfer Blood’s show in two hours.
Well, all that talks the moment Blonds starts playing. Cari Rae, the sultry frontwoman dressed in a corset-reminiscent dress and half her head shaved, opens her mouth amid ambient noise and sings in a blood-chilling voice, “Charmed, I’m sure.” A sorrowful guitar dirge fills the small room, and maddeningly psychotically loud drums start thundering throughout the room. Chit-chat among the crowd has stopped. It won’t begin again until well after Blonds finishes it set.
The songs vary in melody, but there is something terrifying in each one. Rae menacingly sings, “Only, if oly you knew everything,” and everyone’s reaction is pretty much the same: Fuck that, we don’t want to.
Not sure if I mentioned this, but her voice is chilling. Sultry, sexy, crushingly sad but angry, slyly murderous. She’d probably give you the best goddamn sweaty night of your ever-shortening life, because she’d end it before leaving in the morning. It’s the kind of voice that doesn’t exist in daylight, and the band backing her adds a tight tension to it, punctuated only by those psychotic drums. The band is equal parts Interpol and Radiohead, smashing out songs and led by a Madeleine Peyroux if she had scorched her throat with fire.
I can say I’ve never seen a band cover Radiohead and walk away pleased. I frankly never need to hear its version of “Talk Show Host” after hearing Blonds’ cover of it. And thought it’s not Blonds line, when Rae sings it, it sums them up perfectly: “You want me? Fuckin’ well come and get me. I’ll be waiting with a gun and a pack of sandwiches.”
I don’t doubt it.
The band, who has an album out on iTunes on Aug. 7, honestly stole the show. Keep your eyes open: this band will be huge.
The juxtaposition between Blonds and Surfer Blood couldn’t be funnier. The headliners take the stage, and they look like four of the most normal guys ever to hang out, and they look like they’re here to do just that: hang out.
They launch into “Floating Vibes,” which is pretty much as chilled out as it sounds, and when it ends, frontman John Paul Pitts gives the most earnest “thank you’s” I’ve ever heard on a stage.
The band doesn’t offer all that much to write about. Everyone on stage plays their songs competently and enjoyable, but there’s a certain calmness that exudes throughout. Pitts is laid-back, and you just kind of want to crack open a brew with him.
“It’s been rad up until now. Thanks guys, for keeping it rad,” he says before offering the highest energy moment with the hyped “Swim.”
When the band steps off stage, it returns for the encore BEFORE THE LAST GUITAR NOTE HAS FADED FROM THE SPEAKERS. Then the encore, and the show’s over.
Total running time of Surfer Blood’s set: 60 minutes.
(Complete sidetone: to the 60-year-old lady hanging at this show alone, thank you. You’re awesome.)
I don’t think the band didn’t want to play more. I think more doesn’t exist. They released one album, in 2010. I’m not sure if they ever wrote more songs. These dudes don’t seem to need more songs or want them. I mean, hell, Pitts spent some of the time looking for a name and password to watch movies for free on someone’s Netflix account.
Which is just fine: between them and Blonds, the $16 was more than justified. Unfortunately for Surfer Blood, I walked away thinking only of the former.