The Drums at Neumos- Abysmal Thoughts Tour 7/17
It’s not often that I convince myself a show is worth attending on a Monday night after an 8 hour work day and fighting Seattle rush hour traffic. For New York’s The Drums, though, I’d do that three times over. I was giddy all day trying to predict what their set list would be, what the openers would be like and of course- what the newest album would sound like live.
I began the evening with the second opener, Stef Chura– a sweet three piece from Michigan with a lo-fi sound. Front woman Stef leads with vocals that are seemingly impossible to describe. They are trembling, cutting and leave you feeling like you lost something. Every song, though I had never heard her music before, left me nostalgic for summer or maybe love… or maybe a mix between the two? There was a point where she sang “It ain’t something you know, your action growing cold. Ain’t it hard to break the ones you know? Ain’t it hard to know when it’s time to go?” The words left me gutted. There’s something to be said about when lyrics can touch you- especially live and being experienced for the first time. It almost validates the artist’s ability to paint a picture. As the set continued each song became more real and relatable. I fell easily into the slow melodic set and found myself downloading Stef’s debut album, “Messes”, as soon as I got home.
The set change came quick and having attended the 2014 tour date for “Magic Mountain” at the same venue, I expected a big back drop with the newest album cover spread across the Neumos stage. Instead, it was a black backdrop with “The Drums” written in the “Abysmal Thoughts” font. When the first three members stepped on stage I felt transported into some European country. High water pants, tall socks paired with Dr. Martens or sneakers and short-blunt haircuts. The style looked effortless, but it didn’t necessarily scream New York. Front man Jonny Pierce took the stage in a bedazzled tracksuit topped with a Hawaiian shirt in true “Let’s go Surfing” fashion.
“Abysmal Thoughts” has stayed true to the theme that The Drums have followed since early in their career. Vulnerable- raw lyrics about relationships (not just romantic), sexuality and self-discovery. Every album has played out as a coming of age story- and this was just the same. You can feel heartbreak. You listen to Jonny’s struggle with a family who didn’t accept him as his truest self. You can feel his pining through every song- it’s art and it’s healing. As he paraded across the stage merrily swinging his arms and dancing on his toes like a ballet dancer it was hard not to get lost. He sang with sincerity- starting off with newer songs I didn’t expect the crowd to be as transfixed as I was. I quickly realized that Jonny has that affect. When the first note of “Money” began there was a shift in the crowd and suddenly it felt as though we had just taken a trip to some beach party on the coast. This was followed by another hit, “Let’s Go Surfing”, which is how I discovered the band back in 2010.
For being on their fourth album and having more than fifty songs to choose from to play, I felt as though their setlist was a perfectly curated spread of songs that not only were loved by their fans- but they all supported this rawness that, still a day later, can’t shake. This was driven even further when the group performed their song “Days” off their sophomore album, “Portamento”. As Jonny sang, there was visible emotion there. It was as if he was writing it for the first time right in front of us. “To you this song may be about an ex-boyfriend or an ex-girlfriend but for to me, this song is about my family” Jonny explained, “family is the biggest lottery of life, and some people may say ‘but family is family’ […] but truly sometimes you have a winning ticket… and sometimes you don’t”. If you’re a fan of The Drums, you’ve already read into the dark undertones of some songs involving Jonny’s early life and his families struggle to accept him for his sexuality. After he delivered this heartfelt speech he brushed it off with a joke and slid into another beautiful depiction of his struggle to begin life apart from his family, and the afflictions it’s left behind. “Oh darling, you are the son of an evil man. I know you hate yourself but you’re nothing like him and it’s over now you can pick yourself off the ground ‘cause you’re cool now, and you’re nothing like him” he sings as he struts across the stage almost as if he was simply telling us a story. It’s been quite a long time since I’ve been to a show and not only felt emotions from the music, but the crowd itself was something to be emotional about. There was a bit of everything as you’d expect on Capitol Hill but it was beautiful seeing queer folks who may have related or still relate to this journey played out through songs. It was self-love at its finest, and it was truly something incredible to witness. When the group returned for their encore they gave us one last upbeat song off “Portamento” before signing off for the night.
I’d be lying if I said that was enough for me- I would have been perfectly content with the show continuing another two hours. I couldn’t even focus enough on the coverage aspect to take photos as I didn’t want to miss anything. The energy this group brings to their live performances is something every fan must experience at some point in their lives. It was a pleasure welcoming The Drums with a sold out show as they kicked off their tour in our city. Tour dates are quickly selling out so if you plan to catch them at any of their next stops get your tickets before it’s too late!