Jonathan Pierce wasted no time getting into his set this past Monday at the Bowery Ballroom. From “What You Were” to the dramatic finish in “The Future,” The Drums had the entire audience captivated in their bluesy surf-rock.
The post-punk trio, Regal Degal was another casualty in the Brooklyn-based openers at the Bowery. The Bowery usually adds on another local opener to the ones already scheduled with the tour and almost every time, the story is the same. They’re lyrics are simple, progressions elementary, and (even though the Bowery usually gets this right) the mixing was awful. The rhythm section was overpowering, causing their frontman, Josh de Costa (Dinowalrus), to sing louder causing feedback and a drowning out of the guitar.
The night was saved by the funky synth-rock stylings of Kansas native Patrick Cleandenim. It was fun, the audience hadn’t expected such a contrast in the style from the opener to The Drums, but they loved it. Everyone was dancing (usually something hard to find, even for big name bands, at the Bowery) and just having a good time while Cleandenim was singing his quick repeated lyrics like, “in your little black boots, in your little red scarf” to break downs in the exact same song consisting of layered “ahhs.” Cleandenim brought up the crowd and go them ready for the spectacular set that was about to ensue.
When Pierce first stepped on to the stage in his 80s new wave inspired white v-neck tucked into skin-tight black pants, the crowd went bizerk. Pierce’s dance moves were accompanied by long-time childhood friend Jacob Graham’s synth/guitar/bass playing. Graham’s rhythm section was completed by Connor Hanwick (guitar), Myles Matheny (bass), and their only-for-live-shows drummer, Danny Lee Allen.
The first hit of the night came on the second song of the set, “Best Friend,” which Pierce started the song by saying, “this next song is about best friends who die” with a smile on his face. Then wait straight into the first line of the song, “you were my best friend but then you died.” During this upbeat, melancholy song, Pierce was all over the stage, lost in his own world of dancing. Then he would snap out of it, come right back to the front of the stage and urge the crowd to clap.
After playing a few songs from their new album Portamento (the name of which was displayed in lights on the stage the entire night), their hit off that album, and my favorite Drums song, came up. “Money” was spectacular. You could see it on Graham’s face that he’d been waiting to play this song, just going ham on the synth during the buildup within the chorus, “I want to buy you something but I don’t have any money” to the full on burst of sound following that in the line, “No I don’t have any money.”
Although the encore was full of the same energy that The Drums had shown all night, the real ending of the set came on the song “Down By the Water,” the song that ended the before encore set. The slow, behind-the-beat song, showcased the full range of Pierce’s voice, while also giving Hanwick a chance to really groove into the rhythm. By the final, “ohh”s the entire crowd was singing along to the melody, swaying back and fourth in a Kum bah ya-like trance.
The words “The Drums” were displayed on the back of the stage during every band’s set that night and when the concert ended, everyone knew why. This Cars-like band stole the show. They took a willing audience and turned them into true lovers of their music. Maybe it’s an Ohio thing to promote yourself in big ways on the stage behind you (see The Black Keys) but it works. If you were at the Bowery and looking forward to their show because of the giant letters on the back wall, the energetic and powerful show that developed caused no disappointments.