By Jordan Portlock // Photos by Jordan Portlock
What? There is still a line for this show forty minutes past doors? What gives? Are The Drums silently taking over the world and nobody told me?
No, it turns out my initial impressions were misguided. The line turned out to be a clever form of crowd management to draw a spectacle on the street, the doors opened a bit late, and The Drums are not going to take over the world anytime soon. They do, however, put on a great show.
First of all, can we all just take a moment and acknowledge how wonderful the Star Theater is as a venue? Due to the preponderance of 21+ shows at the Star and my restricted rights because of my age, I had yet to make it to a show here and it is a stellar place to see live music. Excellent sound, “Cavern Club” ceilings, and a stage that jumps out at you much like the the Decemberists’ Picaresque album cover. See a show here if you haven’t yet.
First up was Portland’s own We Miss The Earth. Pretty definitive shoe gazing from start to finish with well layered guitars and same great fuzz bass to boot. The twist in their set was that rather than emulating the structures of My Bloody Valentine, the songs felt more like Elf Power at their most washed out. An intriguing spin no doubt. A couple songs could be dropped from the set once newer, stronger, material debuts but the band sounded huge in this space.
Next up was Beverly. Spawning from the surf-gaze community that’s brought us the likes of Vivian Girls, Dum Dum Girls, & Crystal Stilts, Beverly’s 2014 debut, Careers is a delight. I’m going to skip the band sandwich and go straight for the blender, throwing in The Breeders, Wavves, and the Bilinda Butcher sung MBV songs for a result that is more full and sweet sounding than much of the previously mentioned surf-gaze output. The band’s stage entrance was first rate and set up a stellar set. Singer/guitarist Drew Citron owned the stage all night with a grace all her own. The music was both pretty enough to make the crowd swoon and sharp enough to draw blood.
Most of Careers was played over the course of the set and, in all honesty, the songs sounded better live. The record is great but, live, it feels more like a band and less like a “project”. This is a band that sounded great in this space but would sound majestic at an outdoor festival. Here’s to 2015!
Closing out the night was The Drums. The Drums have managed to stay fairly consistently on the radar for the last four or so years that we’ve known them. 2011’s Portamento was essentially a guidebook for modern indie pop, building largely off the groundwork laid by the Smiths in a way few bands do so overtly. Their newest release, 2014’s ‘ Encyclopedia’ has taken that formula and pushed it further into the realm of pop than indie so I was interested in seeing how the band would mix the set.
The new material didn’ t disappoint. For example, their performance of Encyclopedia‘s lead single, “I Can’t Pretend” actually took the somewhat lackluster recording and blew it up into a cathartic highlight of the night. Meanwhile, older standbys like “Days” and the Morrissey revering “Best Friend” hit harder than i remember from when I saw The Drums last in 2011.
What sets The Drums apart live is their penchant for weird. The songs are always solid but there is always a little flourish to them that adds an off-kilter, almost funhouse element to the mix. Honestly, it’s what keeps the songs exciting fresh and is largely a product of synthesizer wizard Jacob Graham who played the Spock (post-alien and logical) to Jonathan Pierce’s Kirk (pure americana right down to the “Patience My Ass” shirt) throughout the night.
Now back to my earlier statement on The Drums’ potential. I don’t think anybody would presume to call them the next big thing anymore. They are a band that embodies the sub-medium band mold so fully that it sometimes seems they are poised to break it at any moment. The mold is not going anywhere but, then again, neither are The Drums. The fans appear to be coming even more than in the past, though. Pierce showed his appreciation towards the end of the set by noting that the last time they had been in Portland, it was to play in front of around ten people. Ouch. Fortunately, the Star Theater was packed for them and Beverly on Wednesday so it wouldn’t be far off to assume that this number could grow even more the next time around.