Having seen clumps of concert-goers sporting studded leather jackets and obscure band T shirts lined up outside House of Vans in the past, I didn't think I was alternative enough to blend in at this venue when I headed down to Williamsburg to see The Drums
perform last night. I spent enough time people-watching before opening act Princess Nokia took the stage to confirm my suspicions and watch hipsters rocking denim jumpsuits and septum piercings dance to "Shabba".
There seemed to be a technical delay at the beginning of the show, so when Princess Nokia finally burst onstage with the body positive anthem "Tomboy" the crowd had some pent up energy to release. Princess knew exactly how to fuel the hype, jumping into the first few rows of the audience, shouting out her family members, and, at one point, mooning the crowd. I'm not joking. Even though I'm not sure how the New York City based rapper ended up opening for an indie surf rock band, she gave a kick-ass performance, drawing shouts of "We love you Princess!" from her devoted fans.
Finally, Johnny Pierce led The Drums onstage decked out in what looked like red and white ski pants, a look he pulled off like few others can. Pierce never stopped dancing through the band's first few songs, and I was impressed by his vocal talent as his rising falsetto on the chorus of "Kiss Me Again" exactly matched the song's studio version. At least I think it did. The crowd was fully invested in belting the lyrics along with him.
Beer rained down upon me as I was herded out of the photo pit to join the wound up crowd. The Drums have a laid back sound on their recordings, but last night they attacked each song with contagious intensity. I haven't lost my shoe at a concert since I saw Die Antwoord last fall, but when the fans around me started jumping in time to the bouncing intro to "Money" I couldn't help being swept along. Literally. People on all sides of me were dancing with their hearts and souls and I couldn't have stood still if I had wanted to. As I sang, "I want to buy you something/ But I don't have any money" and tried to keep my left Converse at least in contact with my foot, it dawned on me that not only did I not have any money, but, even if I did, I also had no one to buy anything for. Normally, this thought would have been an occasion for brooding, but The Drums' carefree sound and the electricity between Pierce and his fans was too strong for anything but more dancing.
When Pierce switched up the mood with the opening lines of "Days" his expression showed the sadness and introspection that inspired The Drums' latest album, Abysmal Thoughts
. In an interview, Pierce told Baeble that working on Abysmal Thoughts
was a healing process during which he became much more aware of how events in his past continue to affect who he is today. The intense self-reflection of the last months were evident when Pierce had a misunderstanding with a security guard. He responded flippantly to the guard's request that he tell the crowd to settle down, but after realizing what prompted the request, Pierce spent several minutes apologizing to his fans and to the guard for what he said, concluding with, "I'm just trying not to be an asshole".
Pierce quickly urged House of Vans back to its frenzied excitement, calling out, "Where are my God-haters at?" before playing "Book of Revelation" and crouching low to get on the crowd's level as he sang, "I've seen the world. And there's no heaven/ And there's no hell". Later, he thanked the crowd with an earnest, "You guys pulled me out of a funk". I can only assume he was talking about the incident with the security guard, and, as someone who also tends to overthink her emotional reactions, this was a highly relatable moment. The rest of Pierce's fans loved it too, letting out a collective whoop of appreciation.
The Drums concluded their two-song encore with "Head of the Horse" which is one of their more mellow songs in terms of sound and wasn't the classic bring-the-house-down finale that leaves guitar feedback ringing in your ears. "Head of the Horse" was still the perfect closer as the most personal of the three singles released ahead of Abysmal Thoughts,
an album that promises to deliver a groundbreaking level of depth from The Drums. I left House of Vans without so much as a recollection of what it feels like to be in a funk, as excited for the band's new release as I was to wash spilt beer and other peoples' sweat out of my hair.