The Drums at the Fine Line, 4/30/12

The Drums
Fine Line Music Cafe, Minneapolis
April 30, 2012

With two stellar local shows already under the Drums' collective belt (opening for Surfer Blood at the Varsity in '10, and selling-out the Entry last October), there was a bit of a worry that their show at the Fine Line would be a small let down by comparison. It was a Monday night after all, and while the club was definitely crowded, it was far from a full-house. But the Brooklyn-based quintet weren't going to let that happen, and the energetic crowd responded in kind, turning the venue into a blissed-out, Monday night retro dance party during the exhilarating 65-minute set.

The Drums have added a huge backdrop featuring the band's name written out in the fonts featured on their recent record, Portamento, and also had two small light fixtures spelling out 'Porta' and 'Mento' on either side of the stage. But other than that, nothing much has changed with the group's live show -- except that they have become more comfortable with their material, and are simply better performers now. That easygoing confidence and charisma stemmed from frontman Jonathan Pierce, who danced and preened as only he can in time to the music, giving the decidedly throwback songs an added flair.

After a cursory version of "What You Were" got the band and the audience settled a bit, Pierce (who was sporting a menacing panther T-shirt under a sweet black & white striped jacket) greeted us warmly: "It's nice to be back, and as long as you keep having us, we'll keep coming back. I fell in love with this town the last time we were here. Let's have a good time tonight. I know it's a Monday, but let's make it feel less like a Monday." Then Pierce introduced "Best Friend," with what must be his standard lead-in to the song, "This is a song about my best friend, who died." And with that track, the set truly took off, with no let down in sight.

The Drums at the Fine Line, 4/30/12

"Me and the Moon" got nearly all of the crowd dancing and swaying in time to the infectious, euphoric melody. A pulsing, moody version of "If He Likes It Let Him Do It" quickly followed, and built to a dramatic finish. And the band really kicked it into high gear on a terrific three song stretch of "Book Of Stories," "How It Ended," and an amped-up version of "Money," that all set the place off, as the crowd easily shrugged off the nagging concerns of the start of another week.

"I Need Fun In My Life" just soared, as Pierce and the band clearly connected with the crowd and fed off of the swelling energy level of the room. The group were obviously enjoying themselves at this point, which perhaps inspired them to dig deep into their back catalog (at least as deep as a young band like the Drums can get), and they dusted off their 2009 self-released single, "I Felt Stupid," which was a rare treat. Even Pierce seemed pleased with how it sounded, smiling after they finished while saying, "That's a real old one."

A slightly plodding version of "I Need a Doctor" paled in comparison to the vitality of one of the band's first singles, but the set didn't lag for long, as "Book of Revelation," quickly got the crowd moving again. Pierce seemed genuinely taken aback by the warm response of the crowd, "To hear so many people singing those lyrics...that means so much to me. Thank you." And with that, the band closed the main set strongly with a dynamic version of "Days," and an impassioned rendition of their '50s-styled love song, "Down By the Water" which only gets sweeter each time they play it.

The encore started with just Pierce and Jacob Graham on synths (and whatever other electronic instruments he was tinkering around with), delivering a mercurial, effects-laden version of "Searching For Heaven," that perhaps hints at what direction the band might decide to take their sound on their next record. The rest of the group came out to join them as "Heaven" dissolved into a warm electronic discord, and transitioned smoothly into a jaunty version of "The Future." Which left "Let's Go Surfing" to euphorically close out the night, and the crowd danced wildly as the dynamic melody washed over us all. The Drums proved once again, with yet another stirring local performance,  that they will never let you down.

Critics' Notebook:

Personal Bias: This is my third time seeing the Drums, and they just keep getting better.

The Crowd: Packed with fans who obviously didn't care that it was a Monday.

Overheard In The Crowd: "The lead singer definitely has a Draco Malfoy vibe."

Random Notebook Dump: San Francisco quartet Craft Spells certainly put on an engaging, entertaining opening set, and really set the mood well for the headliners. Their live arrangements certainly add a bit more bite to their decidedly synth-based recorded material, and frontman Justin Paul Vallesteros proved to be quite genial and charming, as did his upbeat material. Definitely check this band out if you can.


What You Were

Best Friend

Me And The Moon

If He Likes It Let Him Do It

Book Of Stories

How It Ended


I Need Fun In My Life

I Felt Stupid

I Need A Doctor

Book Of Revelation


Down By The Water

Searching For Heaven (Encore)

The Future (Encore)

Let's Go Surfing (Encore)

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