It’s about halfway through Goddamn the Light that I realize something is off about the song. Up to this point, the Thermals set has been impeccable, but now there’s something clearly missing. The rhythm is all off, and as I scan the stage for an explanation, it dawns on me: The Thermals don’t have their drummer anymore. We have their drummer. Westin Glass has abandoned his kit to crowd surf, and he’s loving every minute of it.
Portland based alt-rockers The Thermals performed at the Rickshaw Stop last Friday night as part of the yearly music club invasion known as Noisepop. Joined by EV Kain, The SHE’S and Dirty Ghosts, the night was a densely crammed musical wave.
While I was unfortunately not able to catch EV Kain, I reached the Rickshaw just in time to take in The SHE’S full set. The San Francisco natives, bassist Samantha Perez, singer Hannah Valente, guitarist Eva Treadway, and drummer Sinclair Riley (Note the first initials if you’ve been curious why the band’s name has been in all caps) are a quartet of accomplished musicians; they’ve opened for some indie rock notables, released a full length album and gone on an extensive tour…all while still being in high school. Their stage presence is a bit shy, but if they’re feeling self-conscious about their musical talent, they ought not be; they rolled out a number of infectious pop ditties that had the growing crowd on their feet. Like a surf-rock Sleater Kinney, The SHE’S invoked a lazy summer afternoon, and their sweet harmonies managed to win over a crowd that had come out for a much harder sound.
After a quick break, the Rickshaw Stop was treated to Dirty Ghosts, the music opposite of The SHE’S. Thrashing the audience with a gritty and loud performance, San Francisco’s very own Dirty Ghosts (Singer/Guitarist Allyson Baker, Bassist Erin McDermott, Drummer Ben Tuttle and Keyboardist Nick Andre) delivered a finely tuned eight song set. It was energetic and incredibly fun, with stellar chemistry between Bake and McDermott. It was the perfect set to reinvigorate the crowd following the SHE’S lovely but sleepy opener.
Taking the stage to thunderous applause, the Thermals (Vocalist/Guitarist Hutch Harris, Bassist Kathy Foster and Drummer Westin Glass) kicked off the set with “Faces Stay With Me” off of their forthcoming album Desperate Ground to a rapt audience, likely hearing the song for the first time. After whipping one more song off their new album with barely a moment to catch their breath, Harris announced that they were celebrating the 10th anniversary of their debut album More Parts Per Million (almost to the day, the album dropped March 4th 2003) and expressed hope that we liked the album, as they would be playing nearly the whole thing.
He needn’t have worried. There was a notable change in energy as they ripped into “It’s Trivia” and the crowd came to life, slamming into one another and screaming along with the words. One thing is quite obvious: Thermals fans like the new stuff…but they LOVE the old stuff. Clobbering the audience with all the force of their debut nearly a decade prior, The Thermals dusted off some of their earliest songs. It was fascinating to hear these classics juxtaposed against their newest material, a way for fans new and old to hear where the band has been and where they’re going.
Although the bulk of the show was devoted to previews from Desperate Ground and nostalgia from More Parts Per Million, their other albums were not neglected. Nods were given to 2006’s The Body, The Blood, The Machine and No Culture Icons. With their songs clocking in at a little more than two minutes and with almost no stage banter, the Thermals managed to cram in an impressive 21 songs before the encore.
Additional photos from the show below. All photos © 2013 Jonathan Pirro.