Saturday, October 26, 2013

Surfer Blood, The Sounds concert review: Santa Ana, Calif.

My review originally appeared in the

A sarcastic baseball analogy turned into a self-fulfilling prophesy at the Constellation Room Wednesday night.

Right before Surfer Blood took the stage, a gray bearded gentleman (supposedly guitarist Thomas Fekete’s father) appeared and surveyed the moderate crowd for Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim fans.

The response was a smattering of boos. He went on to mention baseball players Albert Pujols’ and Josh Hamilton’s bloated salaries and then oddly said, “You’re going to be disappointed in these guys, too.”

Marred by sound and ocular problems (bassist Kevin Williams’ contact lens apparently fell out, so he wore dark sunglasses), plus overzealous fans, the short set failed to live up to expectations.

This past summer the mild-mannered Florida alt-rock band put out Pythons, which debuted at No. 1 on Billboard’s Heatseekers chart and went Top 10 on the College Music Journal (CMJ) tally. The absorbing major-label launch (for Warner Bros. subsidiary Sire Records) was helmed by Gil Norton, who has produced Foo Fighters, Jimmy Eat World, Dashboard Confessional and Pixies, among others.

The latter is an important touchtone: Surfer Blood has toured and borrowed instruments from the Bostonians and shares a similar sense of abrasive ebb-and-flow dynamics.

During the opening set from Team Spirit (led by ex-Passion Pit member Ayad Al Adhamy), I ventured into the main Observatory room to briefly watch The Sounds tear things up before a large, crazed audience. Kicking off with "Living in America," the Swedish rock band did potent versions of "Something to Die For," "Painted by Numbers" and "Seven Days a Week."

Clad in a black mini skirt and black top, leader Maja Ivarsson was a real spitfire, whipping up high kicks, accepting a kiss from a female admirer and displaying passionate vocals on the ballad “Weekend,” the title track to the new album. Can't wait to see them do a full set in the future.

Gemini Club, the Chicago dance-rock quartet immediately preceding, was pretty great as well; "Sparklers" and "Preachers" were riveting.

Back in Constellation, Surfer Blood started its uneven Santa Ana performance with infectious instrumental “Neighbor Riffs.” Fekete and lead singer/guitarist John Paul Pitts locked into some tandem jagged sounds. The driving “Twin Peaks,” however, another track off their excellent 2010 effort Astro Coast, was halted midway, then restarted.

Fans began pogoing and slam dancing in earnest (not a good idea for this smaller space) during the glorious noise waves of “Floating Vibes,” but the typically poppy vocals of “Miranda” were drowned out by the poor mix.

Pitts hopped onto the floor for the frayed, reverb-drenched Afropop of “Take It Easy” and had people crowd-surf him back to the stage, yet that stunt disrupted the song. Bizarrely, Fekete’s “father” sat in a chair onstage and watched him play guitar on “Say Yes to Me.”

Then the frontman invited some fans up to dance amid the power-pop-leaning “Swim.” Big mistake: it ended up a free-for-all from which the band couldn’t recover. The singer had to forcefully tell everyone to leave so they could finish the show.

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