Last Night: The Drums at Bottom of the Hill

Categories: Last Night
the drums.jpg
The Drums:
The Drums, Foot Village, T.I.T.S., Casy & Brian
Wednesday, Feb. 18, 2009
Bottom of the Hill
By Nicholas Gitomer

It was with some trepidation that I approached this drum-heavy show. After all, what separates a drums-only band from the drum circles that form spontaneously in Golden Gate Park? The answer, perhaps, is ideology. Whereas a typical drum circle seems to approach its activity without ambition, drums-only Los Angeles quartet Foot Village has operated for around five years now under the pretense of being a nation building unit.

The night wasn't entirely built around drum nationalism, however, as openers Casy and Brian proved with their spirited concoction of overdriven Casiotone keyboard, agile drumming, and notably inconsequential lyrics delivered in a style endemic of current indie bands. For the most part, though, the music was good, and Casy and Brian were the only band to get the crowd dancing. Those who were not dancing were on the sidelines, looking scared.

T.I.T.S , a local all girl band -- but not a "girl band," per se -- followed next. They were my favorite group of the night, although they did not have the inherent limitations that the other groups had, unless you consider the parameters of the classic rock band formula of bass, guitar, guitar, and drums to be limiting. Their palette ran the gamut from satanic shoegaze to metal to no-wave, culminating in a great cover of the Shocking Blue classic "Love Buzz." When the bass player began the familiar riff, the group's matching floral outfits and dangly earrings, more befitting of a Pebbles-era garage rock band than typical no-wavers, started making sense.

I expected Foot Village to maintain the ambitious streak of their early shows --which filed "reports" with songs on such exotic locales as "Brazil" and "Iran" -- but I was slightly disappointed to find that their current live experience seems to be more of a drum party. Their performance was fun, but too similar for my liking to a typical drum circle, despite the fact that they're playing songs and not just jamming. It should be mentioned, however, that the visceral experience of four drumsets being pounded on simultaneously is still a treat, the earthshaking racket of four bass drums played at once being especially exciting.

Foot Village eventually transitioned seamlessly into The Drums, another drums and vocals band already set up by the soundboard in the back of the room. I was skeptical at first of this duo, which features local legend John Dwyer (most recently of Thee Oh Sees), as their punk beats and echoey, distorted vocals seemed somewhat lacking in the way some people find bands without bass players to sound lacking. At times The Drums seemed like Dwyer's old band the Coachwhips, only without guitars. When the vocal melodies carried the songs, though, it worked, and their setup of two drumsets facing each other and conjoined at the bass drum was different enough from a drum circle for me to leave the show happy.

Critic's notebook

Personal Bias:
I used to occasionally walk by a drum circle in Golden Gate Park on the way to work and thought it was annoying.

By the way: Foot Village plays again this Saturday at Heco's in Oakland, along with Lucky Dragons and High Castle. Just because gas prices are low again doesn't mean we should stop supporting touring bands.

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