In celebration of April Fools’ Day, Amoeba hosted a free in-store concert with Surfer Blood, a young, up-and-coming pop group from West Palm Beach, Florida, that has been getting quite a bit of buzz from the indie music world. In the roughly 45-minute set Surfer Blood played, the band certainly made an impression and revealed why indie music enthusiasts have been getting excited about them both before and after they released their first album, Astro Coast, in January of this year.
I am not exactly sure if the members of Surfer Blood actually surf – they seemed rather apathetic about Florida and, I assume, its waves – but the group undoubtedly manages to infuse the refreshing, laid-back beach/island sound into the blood and soul of its music. Although the entire Astro Coast album revolves around songs that communicate a failing and disintegrating relationship, the beach-y, pop music-ridden nature of the album manages to brighten its mood in spite of its rather heavy content. This juxtaposition of optimistic, feel-good, catchy songs with the darker nature of their actual content makes for a very refreshing listening experience and, in my opinion, reflects Surfer Blood’s inevitable transition from youthfulness into the more somber reality of adulthood, both in terms of their maturity as a band and as individuals.
In terms of Surfer Blood’s live performance, the band definitely showcased their talent, silencing those who might have wondered about the buzz surrounding them, while also demonstrating their inexperience as a live act. The members of Surfer Blood were, overall, quite pleased to be playing a free in-store for the sizeable crowd of people who gathered for a listen in between the racks of Amoeba’s record and CD stock. The lead singer, JP Pitts, as well as the drummer, Tyler Schwarz, and touring keyboardist/percussionist, Marcos Marchesani, were the most enthusiastic about playing their music, with Pitts intensely belting out every lyric to each song, Schwarz and Marchesani flinging sweat from their drumsticks and Marchesani passionately singing the lyrics in spite of not having a microphone to pick up his vocal contributions. Somewhat disappointingly, however, their enthusiasm was not quite matched by the bassist and backup guitarist, who seemed to drag the energy level of the band down a notch. Furthermore, the band’s banter with the audience seemed quite awkward and forced, also indicating their inexperience. With some practice, however, and the bassist and backup guitarist matching the other band members’ high energy levels, as well as getting more comfortable jamming with each other in front of an audience instead of just casually playing their songs in front of an audience, I am confident that Surfer Blood can put on a high-caliber live performance that not only sounds good, but is entertaining, too.
Sound-wise, Surfer Blood’s live performance was quite good, especially considering that they are a very new, young band gaining some valuable live playing practice. During the concert, it was obvious that they had practiced Astro Coast’s popular songs most, and “Swim” was undoubtedly the best-sounding and most polished live. The other songs off the album were a bit more rough around the edges and could certainly benefit from some more practice and live playing time. For the most part, however, the live presentation of their album was quite clean, although one song in particular – “Catholic Pagans,” which ends with a significant amount of feedback looping and reverb, even on the album – became a rather uncomfortable mish-mash of noise when they attempted to recreate the song’s effects live. Other than that, Surfer Blood definitely impressed with their sound and potential, which they can continue to capitalize upon with more practice and touring experience. Luckily, Surfer Blood have plenty of room and time to grow and develop as a band, making it quite unlikely that the buzz surrounding them is going to fade any time soon.