If the kids don’t like rock’n’roll anymore, no one told the youthful front row at tonight’s gig in Whelan’s. As Jonny Pierce pirouettes across the stage, his adoring fans stretch their hands in the hopes of glancing the frontman and now sole fulltime member of the Drums. As the singer will echo later during a short interlude, amongst all the death of guitar music doom mongering and think pieces, it’s reassuring to see a crowd this sweaty and passionate for a band on their fourth record.
Following an impressive set from newcomer Keir, which showed off some muscular song writing as well as some impressive vocal acrobatics, The Drums, or at least their live incarnation, stroll on stage. The group barely look up before straight into ‘I’ll Fight for Your Life’, setting the tone for the first half of the set. A frantic ‘Best Friend’ follows and hits the crowd like a cold glass of water to the face. From there on in, there’s barely a moment to pause as we’re treated to a barrage of indie pop nuggets.
Many had written off Pierce after the rather subdued reaction to his project’s third record Encyclopedia, but it appears the departure of Jacob Graham and his recent divorce have provided the singer with a creative shot in the arm and the songs from Abysmal Thoughts hold up with the best that he has written. ‘Heart Basel’ and ‘Head of the Horse’ prove themselves to be particularly tuneful additions to the group’s back catalogue and are greeted like old favourites.
The four-piece roll back the years and unleash a volley of hits from their first two records with ‘Days’, ‘Let’s Go Surfing’ and ‘Money’ all getting early airings. The Drums are a band that have never attempted to reinvent the wheel. Their music groups the best of 80’s indie – a bassline nicked from the Cure here, a New Order guitar lick here – and blends their influences into a perfect nostalgic cocktail.
Set closer ‘Blood under My Belt’ is a showstopper live, its surf rock guitars and pleading chorus proving that Pierce never lost the knack for crafting a catchy tune. It seems that the crowd’s ecstatic reaction hasn’t gone unnoticed, the band re-emerge moments later with Pierce now clothed in a baggy overalls, a reference to his working class upbringing, he will later explain.
After an hour of frantic rock’n’roll with barely a pause for breath, Pierce calls for a moment of silence. Stood centre stage, under the glare of the spotlight, the singer delivers a touching soliloquy, ruminating on his repressive religious upbringing, letting loved ones go and learning to accept himself for who he is.
When the final cymbal has been sounded, the Drums have proven themselves to be one of the great singles bands still doing the rounds and Pierce to be one of the few singers who gives himself wholly to the audience. It would seem that reports of indie rock’s demise have been greatly exaggerated.
The Drums photographed for State by Leah Carroll