This week The Drums wrapped up their North American tour on the stage of El Rey Theatre in the Miracle Mile of Los Angeles, and there was no doubt the night held special meaning — for both the audience and the band itself.
Photos by Damon Cirulli
After a great warmup set by Stockton-via-Seattle’s Craft Spells, The Drums slowly ambled to the El Rey stage facing an absolutely entranced audience of Pitchfork-weened, impeccably disheveled youth. And for lead singer and focal point Jonathan Pierce it was clear the night held unique meaning. “Tonight’s the last show of the North American tour,” he noted to the cheering sold out audience. “We’re both happy and sad; tomorrow we’re off to Japan. Let’s make this special!” And so, they did.
While knocking out a handful of tracks from their breakthrough eponymous debut LP, Pierce sashayed across the stage with all the makings of an indie rock matinee idol. Simultaneously unassuming and yet ultimately self aware, the singer has a singular charm — he shimmies with a half Ian Curtis spasmatic dance/half loose-armed muppet waggle. Like the music of The Drums, which takes past doo-wop and proto-New Wave elements and modernizes it sterilized free of kitsch, Pierce toes the line between painfully modern and utterly timeless. And the girls love him all the more for it — hands raised up in the air at the front of the stage, reaching for their adulated star. And through it all Pierce sways back and forth, arms resting in tragic pose on his head like a teen Morrissey… except he’s blond, and not a teen. And American. But you get the point; there are a lot of similarities… including the ambiguous, often deferred sexuality question. But really, who cares? Certainly not The Drums’ ample female contingency. While powering through their torch songs filtered thru unwavering Joy Division basslines, Pierce sings about dead best friends and needing you forever, my dear. He’s clearly in oh-so-much pain, but it’s pain in the bedazzled Vegas tradition.
While the crowd seemed at its most amped when The Drums played tracks like “Best Friend” and “Down By the Water” from their superlative first album, newer tracks like “Money” from their followup Portamento also hit home. But truth be told, they could’ve fared better to switch a few newer tracks for their debut — I think we all would’ve appreciated hearing “I Felt Stupid” (the old adage about you having a whole life to write your debut, and only months to write the followup almost always rings true). After playing “Me & the Moon”, with its mantra-like breakdown of “I want it forever, forever, forever, forever, forever, forever…” Pierce let the crowd know how lucky they were. “We haven’t done that one in awhile,” he admitted to a swell of cheers. He also wished someone from Miike Snow, who happened to be in the audience, a happy birthday.
Continue reading “Last Night In America”, plus another gallery of exclusive live pics of The Drums, after the Jump…
“A virtual avalanche of harmless hipster girls rushed the stage, stars sparkling in their eyes as if spellbound…”
Like Miike Snow themselves, Pierce and writing partner and founder Jacob Graham are shamelessly good songwriters. It’s almost uncanny how instantly recognizable their 3-minute pop ditties are. That’s why when they said goodbye and walked off stage before playing their breakthough hit, everyone knew they’d be back — as could be evidenced by the growing chants of “Let’s Go Surfing! Let’s Go Surfing!” in the darkened El Rey ballroom. But I don’t think anyone really expected what happened when they came back. After returning to the stage and dancing through a couple more songs from Portamento, the rollicking bassline and signature whistle of “I Wanna Go Surfing” came though the speakers, and a harmless, 17-yr-old hipster girl rushed the stage, threw her arms around Pierce lovingly like a teddy bear, and jumped back into the audience. The singer handled it with aplomb, but then survived another eager hipster assault. Then another, and another, and another, until a virtual avalanche of harmless 90-lb hipster girls began rushing the stage, wrapping their arms around their idol’s lithe torso and kissing him on the cheek, stars sparkling in their eyes as if spellbound. Then they stayed, and their boyfriends jumped up too. Through it all Pierce stood there amused, not sure what to do — until there was nothing The Drums could do, except accept the onslaught and play through it. And they did. I’m not sure if Pierce and company had ever experienced anything like it before, but they handled it expertly, clearly enjoying the impromptu adulation. Who knows when and where this has happened to them — I’ve certainly never seen anything like it on the El Rey stage before, which I’ve seen play host to countless power players like LCD Soundsystem, Deer Tick, Noah & the Whale, M.I.A., the aforementioned Miike Snow and many, many others. And afterward Pierce thanked the cheering crowd, who at this point were absolutely delirious by osmosis from being so close to their shimmying idol. It seems Los Angeles, he said, always made them feel like stars. Funny that, because from this night at least it doesn’t seem like The Drums — and especially Pierce — need the crowd to know they’re special.