Show Review: The Thermals, Thao with The Get Down Stay Down, and Grass Widow at Great American Music Hall, 2/5/10

by Caroline Hernandez on February 6, 2010


Standing in the shadow of the Beast.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I agreed to cover Friday nights show at the Great American Music Hall. I wasn’t even aware of the set up of the show; co-headliners The Thermals (whom I had never even heard of before) and Thao with The Get Down Stay Down.  Because of this, I arrived late thinking TWTGDSD was the opener, the real opener just finishing as I entered the venue. Sorry Grass Widow. I promise to check out one of your various shows in Austin at this years SXSW.

I had seen Thao with The Get Down Stay down at The Treasure Island Music Festival and remembered liking what I had seen; however, the album and subsequently this show left something to be desired. TWTGDSD opened with “Body” and once the set commenced there was no lack of energy from both band and crowd. It seemed, though, that if one were to watch the whole show on mute one would be surprised to compare what he saw to what he heard. At center stage was Thao’s hair, which whipped around wildly in a mass of layers and bangs. But it seemed to me that the sound that should be coming from their instruments didn’t match up with the energy and presence exuded on stage, most notably Thao’s guitar. Now, I’m no expert on guitars, and I don’t even know what kind of guitar she was playing, but in my humble opinion it wasn’t living up to the potential of the rest of the band, especially because the melodies were really good. I wanted the sound to be bigger. I wanted to rock, not listen to restrained folky-type indie music.

And I have to talk about the vocals. Someone might call the sound original or kitschy, and I can see how others would probably really like the style, but I subscribe to a different school of thought. A lead singer should be able to sing and enunciate at the same time. I like being able to understand the lyrics. No mumbling into the microphone please.

Once TWTGDSD ended, the density of the crowd loosened up so that I was able to move closer to the stage. Here I could observe the type of fans The Thermals enlisted, the 25-35 nerdy demographic. Alright, my kind of crowd!

My anticipation on seeing a band I had never heard before with this kind of loyal audience was rising. Although, I was distracted for most of their set by a big and tall grizzly gentleman, who resembled something of a beast. His enjoyment of the music was evident by the large circle created around him by the rest of the crowd (probably for their own protection). Though I do have to admit he played as an excellent visual to some really cool pop-punk music brought to me by the three members of The Thermals. They should hire him to be at all their shows.

Their set started off with a new number called “Paralyze” that I’m assuming will be on their new album out in the fall.  I knew immediately that I was going to enjoy the show because everything that I wanted TWTGDSD do be was slowly being realized in front of me by The Thermals, fast-paced, tightly played songs that reminded me of the ’90s. This is an ultimate Rock Band band with socially conscious lyrics that can easily be sung along to. (Are you taking notes Thao?)

When the encore commenced, all abandon was thrown out by the die-hards as they proceeded to dance feverishly through the two songs.

Overall, it was a fun, energetic show that I didn’t expect on a rainy Friday night. Nor did I expect to walk away from the show as a newly instated nerdy fan.

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