Live Review: We Are Scientists and Surfer Blood with Eternal Summers at U Street Music Hall, Washington DC – 3rd October 2014

By on Tuesday, 7th October 2014 at 2:00 pm
 

American bands We Are Scientists and Surfer Blood are currently in the midst of their current Spatter Analysis tour and last Friday night, they stopped into Washington, only the second date of 10 on their East Coast and Midwest journey. It was truly a Yank fest, as the opening band were Roanoke’s Eternal Summers, who I’d caught as support for Maximo Park back in May (review here). The Virginia-based band shares labels with Surfer Blood (their third album ‘The Drop Beneath’ was released on Brooklyn indie Kanine back in March), so there’s yet another connection linking the bands on this bill.

I hesitate to say that Eternal Summers have a completely laid back vibe, as drummer Daniel Cundiff was really beating the hell out of his skins for several of their songs. But like Surfer Blood’s music, there seems to be this underlying slacker feeling like you should be laying out on a beach somewhere listening to their songs but counterintuitively, both bands are technically proficient. At times, guitarist Nicole Yun’s voice seemed to be fighting with the loudness of her bandmates’ instruments, but that could be more to blame with the venue than the band themselves. From their current album, check out energetic numbers ‘Never Enough’ and ‘A Burial’.

It’s been some time since I’d last seen Surfer Blood live, having last laid ears on them when they coheadlined a show at the 9:30 Club with then indie behemoths The Drums. Times have changed for J.P. Pitts and co. – for one, Warner Brothers dropped them earlier this year, but they’re probably best back with Kanine – but their style that have made them firm favourites with their fans is still intact. I admit that theirs, along with Best Coast and other bands of their ilk, is really not my kind of music; as there is no immediacy, no urgency, it’s in direct odds with my personality.

Nevertheless, I can understand their mainstream (for indie) popularity, with the well-picked guitars and feel good ambience of ‘Floating Vibes’ and ‘Swim’ (aka the “swim to reach the end!” song) from 2010’s ‘Astro Coast’ showing they’ve aged well and can still bring the house down. Frontman J.P., who has no rock star air about him at all, still has a sweet voice and looks like a frat boy in a buttoned-up shirt and boat shoes, but I think those things are all part of the appeal. He announced they were about to play “my favourite Surfer Blood song, ever”, and then leaped into the crowd to sing ‘Drinking Problem’. Forget that we could have jumped rope with his mike lead. Several excited fans had their year made with the chance to sing with one of their idols.

I’ve been a fan of and been going to see We Are Scientists long before I even started blogging. As the band is based in New York, I’ve been lucky to see them live so many times, and by this time I’ve stopped counting. As I was walking to the venue, that admittedly annoying Owl City and Carly Rae Jepsen song “it’s always a ‘Good Time’ was stuck in my head. Lately, I’ve had my suspicions that U Hall packs more people than should be allowed at their indie shows, but maybe it’s just because I’ve always been either down the front or somewhere near the front, where there is always a crush of bodies. Even though the critical mass seemed to part slightly after Surfer Blood finished, the WAS fans were quick to fill in the gaps.

‘Dumb Luck’, from their current ‘TV en Français’, started their set confidently, with its near ‘Maneater’ ’80s groove. It was the perfect opener, proving right out of the gate why they’re rated so highly as a live act. As did J.P. Pitts before him, Keith Murray jumped down into the crowd to serenade us with ‘Textbook’, from the band’s first album ‘With Love and Squalor’. I was gobsmacked, I assumed I was never going to hear that song live ever again. Same goes for the brilliantly bass-heavy ‘Chick Lit’, from their 2008 album ‘Brain Thrust Mastery’.

Of course, being the irrepressible jokers they are, Keith Murray and Chris Cain were only too happy to banter away between the songs, amusing and charming the heck out of the punters as they always do. Slow groove ‘Can’t Lose’ was prefaced by the guys asking who in the audience liked to grind, saying any song with a 0% grind factor was considered a failure, and this one from them was between 0% and 2%. (Cue audience laughter.) To introduce ‘Impatience’, Keith explained he had once been a candy striper in hospital (probably false) and stopped volunteering because aged people had the unfortunate habit of telling stories and then slowly expiring, mid-anecdote:

If there was anything to criticise about the gig, it was the nature of this tour and having two headliners. I am sure Surfer Blood’s set was shorter than it is usually runs, and I know We Are Scientists’ set was shorter too, as in April their show at the Black Cat was much longer. Still, it was a great Friday night out and definitely showed tickets to all three bands are worth your hard-earned money next time they’re in your town.

After the cut: We Are Scientists’ set list.

We Are Scientists Set List:
Dumb Luck
After Hours
Impatience
I Won’t Bite
Sprinkles
Textbook
Chick Lit
It’s a Hit
Make It Easy
Can’t Lose
Slow Down
The Great Escape
Nice Guys

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