The Drums At The Bootleg Theatre, Saturday November 9th 2019
Jonny Pierce has a way to romance the mic like nobody else, during the song ‘I Can’t Pretend’ he was stroking the stand, leaning against it as if he was ready to faint from pleasure while rolling his eyes backward in perfect abandon. The gesture pushed the crowd to the edge of excitement, girls and boys alike, and everyone stretched their arms toward him to touch him. The Drums played a show at the Bootleg on Saturday night, and if this looked like a special gift for Angelenos, it truly was one, as their last show in town was at the Hollywood Palladium this past summer. I don’t think I am the only person who thinks that downgrading from a 5,000-capacity venue to a 500-capacity is a wonderful treat for real fans.
Cowgirl Clue opened the show with her dancefloor collages and her eerie presence. She was restlessly dancing, just surrounded by synths and drumset, and her joyful and hard-beating electronica was alternatively evoking a busy studio 54-like dance club in the middle of dense traffic or a vintage videogame with bubbly detours. With her white vinyl raincoat and matching boots, she looked like someone dressed for a vintage musical, who was suddenly DJ-ing for some bizarre and futuristic lounge party. Sometimes her buoyant dance soundscapes had touches of EDM or dreamy rave parties, while the synth loops, bubblegum beats, and her unique way to accidentally kneel down in the middle of her dance kept the spectacle weird and playful.
Even though the Drums were supposed to take the stage around 10 pm, fans had already lined up very early to be sure to secure a good spot inside the intimate venue. It is easy to understand why, since a good concert experience with The Drums means to be very close to Pierce, who is constantly holding the mic to the audience. I was standing among a crowd of very young people, most of them didn’t even have reached legal drinking age, but all of them were finishing Pierce’s lines in a very enthusiastic choir.
The Drums have now 5 studio albums, and this second round of shows after the release of ‘Brutalism’ earlier this year on ANTI-Records, was not particularly pushing the new material – they played plenty of material from ‘The Drums’, ‘Portamento’ and ‘Abysmal Thoughts’ – rather it was celebrating this love story between the band and their fans. During the entire show, Pierce sang as close as possible to the edge of the stage, leaving the rest of the band in the foggy background… Since the departure of guitarist Jacob Graham, Jonny Pierce is the only original band member left, and he entirely embodies the Drums. This became even more obvious when the band disappeared before the encore, and the entire crowd chanted ‘Jonny, Jonny, Jonny!’… nobody was asking for ‘The Drums!’ to come back.
Jonny returned the love, and expressed his appreciation of this ectatic crowd: ‘You had so many other options tonight’, he told us, ‘It’s always Los Angeles,… I’m so grateful for the love and support, and the connection… I feel understood when I play here, thank you from the bottom of my heart’, he said just before ‘Meet Me In Mexico’.
With the new album, the Drums have certainly evolved into something different, but everything looked the same when they attacked their set with ‘Days’, ‘Best Friend’, ‘Heart Basel’ of respectively ‘Portamento’, ‘The Drums’, ‘Abysmal Thoughts’, and the lines of the songs on everyone’s lips. From heartbreaks to breakups to heartbreaks and death (of course), their songs perfectly embody plenty of drama with infectious hooks, and the catchy singalongs were sung at unison by a crowd overwhelmingly joyful despite the depressive lyrics: ‘You’re my best friend/But then you died/And how will I survive, survive/survive, survive?’… ‘I thought my life would get easier/instead it’s darker, instead it’s getting colder/Without you’.
The upbeat bounce of these first songs, mixed with an obvious nod to the Smiths, shifted a bit during the new songs, ‘Brutalism’, ‘Body Chemistry’, while the erotic mic-moment during ‘I Can’t Pretend’ combined with lines like ‘I see us high, high on a mountain/I see us die, dying in a mountain’ were an almost perfect combination for the young crowd. The enthusiasm reached some incredible heights at the beloved ‘Money’ and ‘Rich Kids’ and other favorites, although there was not one song that left the crowd cold.
The place turned into a sweat bath, everyone was jumping and dancing while Pierce, who has a very dynamic presence on stage, was doing his very peculiar and weightless dance moves with ease and grace,… any great frontman must come up with his own ones, no matter what, just ask Thom Yorke. He was undulating and doing his marionette-like moves, leaning above our heads, browsing the forest of arms trying to reach him, stirring joy out of the misery of his lyrics, while it was sometimes even difficult to hear his voice that was barely surfacing the crowd choir.
With his energetic charisma, Jonny Pierce had this immediate connection with the very young crowd, finally touching all the reaching hands during ‘Blood Under My Belt’, holding the mic for heartfelt singalongs while dancing all the world’s heartbreaks away. It was an exclusive love affair, and an energizing, vibrant and cheerful experience, and if Pierce, with his eyes closed in a dreamy abandon, often looked lost in his own music, everyone was actually magically connecting to his confessions about this universal chaos of love and life.
Book of Stories
I Can’t Pretend
Let’s Go Surfing
Meet Me In Mexico
626 Bedford Avenue
How It Ended
Down by the Water
Book Of Revelation
Blood Under My Belt