Over the Weekend: Surfer Blood, Turbo Fruits, Ganglians at Bottom of the Hill

Categories: Last Night
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Surfer Blood
Surfer Blood, Turbo Fruits, Ganglians
April 2, 2010
Bottom of the Hill

Better than: Most bands that have been together for only 11 months.

Being in a brand-new, mega-buzz-band like Surfer Blood seems like a tough blessing. Sure, the group's shows, like Friday's at Bottom of the Hill, sell out months in advance. The band gets followed around by the New York Times at SXSW, and its members could confidently quit school to focus on making music. But riding the Internet hype machine usually raises the question of whether -- or when -- the popular act is going to fall off from such high expectations. Onstage Friday night, Surfer Blood displayed the skilled songwriting that makes its debut album, Astro Coast, such a thrilling listen. But its calm performance couldn't suppress the feeling that this band still has a ways to go.

Astro Coast's ten songs recall '90s alt-rock highlights like Weezer, Pavement, and Built to Spill, while its moments of Afro-pop adventures and reverb-saturated atmosphere make for a sound that's distinctly new millennium. Onstage, Surfer Blood rendered its climactic tunes skillfully, and without much fuss. After setting up their own equipment -- because a Pitchfork Best New Music tag doesn't come with a roadie crew -- the band launched into the blunt opening riff of "Floating Vibes" and fell back into its Dinosaur Jr.-y groove. 

Babyfaced frontman J.P. Pitts kept a relentlessly easygoing presence behind the mic, ambling along to the band's mid-tempo jaunts with coy shoulder shrugs that were unselfconsciously cute. His bright voice was striking, toweled off from the haze of reverb that soaks it on the album. He pointed up into a boyish falsetto and punched out teenage bark with seemingly little effort and much precision. His bandmates were similarly skilled. Much of Surfer Blood's elementary songs rely on the intricate interactions between two guitars and the bass; onstage these exchanges came through with surprising clarity. The opening chimes of "Harmonix" morphed smoothly into the song's glassy, tentative sway. "Take it Easy," erupted with a one-two punch before launching into a heavy Fela Kuti groove -- made fatter onstage by the presence of touring percussionist/keyboardist Marcos Marchesani. 

Despite the capable performance, the band didn't have the charismatic stage presence of more experienced outfits. Pitts swayed joyfully and stood atop the kick drum for a few loud moments, but excepting Marchesani's violent hopping behind the keys -- which caused him to fall over a couple times -- other members seemed more stoned (or tired) than fired-up. 

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Surfer Blood
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