The Drums at 7th Street Entry, 10/5/11
The New Wave/Post-punk revival had been fun up until Wednesday night at the 7th Street Entry. A lot of great songs, some fun lead singers, some great guitarists, a slew of memorable songs. But Wednesday may have given us a glimpse of something more substantial, something that's finally going to last as something more than a one- or two-hit wonder and possibly be a defining band for this decade. The Drums seem to be approaching the revival because they mean it, not because it seems like the hip thing to do or because it might land them on the cover of NME and therein lies the difference.
This was illustrated perfectly as Johnathan Pierce introduced the set's second song, "Best Friend" from their self-titled 2010 debut: "This is about my best friend, who died." It didn't matter if was true (for the record, I believe that it was), what mattered is that Pierce and company are willing to take these songs to somewhere real and not take a relationship--real or imagined--and obscure it behind a bucketful of five-dollar words that happen to rhyme and form three verses. There was substance behind these songs, not just an inflated sense of importance or snotty "look what we can do, too" attitude.
The Drums also made dancing happen. A lot of it. Actual dancing, not the Minnesota-style bobbing-heads-to-the-beat-type dancing you see at so many live shows in Minneapolis. People were dancing all over the Entry and one gentleman, not nearly dour-looking enough for the Smiths shirt he had on, was clapping loudly along to every song for the entire set. They did a quick and dirty version of their current hit "Money" about halfway through the fairly astonishing, if a bit short, 45-minute set that made the album version seem just a little too polished (read: it was far more enjoyable live) and overall, most of the songs seemed to reside in that general vein: tossed off and almost accidentally stunning, like they had written most of them in the green room before arriving onstage and they all just happened to be stellar. Of course that's not true, but when a band can pull that off it's hard not to stop cold in your tracks and take notice, staring in wide-eyed amazement.
They closed the set with a chilling, passionate version of "Down By the Water" that they dedicated to Steve Jobs, who passed away earlier Wednesday evening, showing their age a bit maybe, but also bringing to the surface a dichotomy of sorts that they could easily take part in but thankfully choose not to: Jobs, in creating the iPod was responsible for revolutionizing the way the public at large digests music, specifically the tendency to own maybe only one or two songs by any one artist and not entire albums; to listen to an array of bands of the course of a night, an hour, fifteen minutes. The Drums, by contrast, (though they certainly must all own iPods) have created two albums and an EP worthy of listening to--in sequence--over and over again on any machine capable of playing music that a person can get their hands on. The singles they release are great, catchy bits of shiny, post-punk preciousness but the real reward lies in consuming the album as a whole. It's hard not to swoon a bit at a band that still chooses to create music in this manner and it never stops being refreshing.
Critic's Bias: I had approached the Drums preparing to be disappointed that no other song would be as good as "Money". Nothing could be further from the truth.
Photos by Stacy Schwartz
The Crowd: Full of a new breed of SuperHipster™, no fewer than three of whom were sporting neon-colored Wayfarers in the dimly lit room.
Overheard In The Crowd: "This lead singer [Pierce] dances like he's blackout drunk."
Random Notebook Dump: All bands should have this guitar tone, but I'm glad they don't.
For More Photos: See our full slideshow by Stacy Schwartz.