On the hottest, sunniest day of the year so far you might think you should be out on the streets at the opening night of this city’s legendary Distortion festival, not crammed into a small, dark room on the other side of town awaiting New York’s newest hyped band to come on stage.
What initially sets our minds at ease on tonight’s decision is the pleasant surprise we get watching young Danes, The Olympics open the show. While all Danish bands are now legally required to have one stocky guitarist in a vest this did not hinder the energy and enthusiasm they display, catching our ear with tasty melodies and some brooding and building songs that all seem to end in some blend of perfect chords and a joyful group rock-out on stage.
To be fair, The Drums had to pull off something special to out-shine the support. And then it happened. To set the scene: Little Vega is a beautiful small venue that holds about 700 people. The stage is recessed and a curtain can be drawn to cover the entire stage. In four years of seeing bands here, none of them have ever used the curtain as part of the show but right from the off tonight the Brooklyn four-piece show they know a load more about stage presence and performance than their youthful features imply.
In a darkened room with the curtains drawn we hear the twang of the first chords of -It Will All End In Tears’. Frontman Jonathan Pierce starts singing and then the drapes draw back to reveal the band in full swing. Simple, for sure, but brilliantly effective at drawing us straight in. Pierce is jerking about like Ian Curtis dancing to ’50s surf songs – unselfconsciously twisting all over the stage and sometimes petting his microphone like a cat or randomly dropping it with a pop (he went through two or three mics this evening). There’s a big reaction to -Best Friend’ next and the energy on stage is seeping through the crowd and certainly everyone young enough to have healthy knees is jumping and clapping.
Pierce is exactly what a young frontman should be. He’s very polite between songs, gushing and blowing kisses in quite a fey way. His tucked-in and buttoned up polo shirt adds to his angular moves and he never lets up from this persona. The simple structure of the songs, which jump from ’80s to ’50s sounds, keep things uncomplicated and there’s no time for musing or chin-stroking. You’re either in with the clapping, dancing and sweating or you’re missing out. Pierce is outshone on a number of songs by guitarist Jacob Graham who must be on a trampoline of sorts as he bounces with an unnatural spring all over the stage with his guitar and then a tambourine.
There’s a lot of songs from the early Summertime EP, but we’re not left wanting as -Let’s Go Surfing’ closes the main set and there’s not a foot left un-shuffled. After the minimum of time off stage before the encore we are told that -Down By The Water’ will be the last song and their slow-burner manages to just about cut through the bad sound plaguing the gig tonight. But the finalities are premature and we have -Forever And Ever Amen’, with its closing ‘Forever, forever, forever, forever’¦’ line, it caps the evening sweetly, and perfectly on the hour.
The simplicity and pleasure in a live show from an energetic newly-born band like these guys makes for such a great night. You could spend your money on epic, super-stadium gigs but for a quarter of the price you could see new bands like The Drums, dance three meters from the stage, get beer without queuing and be delivered fired-up and fresh back into the summer night.
Photos: Jakob Bekker Hansen