Gig Review: Surfer Blood – Channel [V] Online

Originally posted at http://www.vmusic.com.au/pages/main-menu/news/reviews/gig-review–surfer-blood

Date: 26 July, 2013
Venue: Oxford Arts Factory, Sydney

You’d be forgiven for immediately filing Surfer Blood into the surf-rock genre purely from the band name but the lo-fi quartet from Florida are actually a little more tricky to categorise, something which becomes even more evident after seeing one of their live shows. Guitar songs about girls and parties, sure, but it’s the sneaky pop elements, bright hooks and shameless rock’n’roll that steal into their songs that take the band slightly out of the garage and into their own unique sound, a sound that was completely devoured by the long-haired, denim-jacketed Sydney crowd at Oxford Art Factory on Friday.

Support band Palms have this knack for making any gig they play feel like a backyard party in a run-down inner-west terrace house (NB: This is a very good thing). Whenever I see them live I don’t just feel like I’m watching four young dudes thrashing out some solid vintage rock, I feel like I’m watching my mates having a good time. Which is weird considering I’ve never even met any of the band members. Me being a creep aside, it’s hard not to have a grin plastered on your mug for the entirety of a Palms set with the lads’ crazy tight delivery of such killer tracks as newie ‘This Last Year’ in total contrast to their laidback, cheerful demeanours.

The intimate Oxford Art Factory floor had filled with fellow non-Splendourites when the curtains parted for Surfer Blood, signalling it was time to get our reverb on. Opening with an intensity that set several audience members’ beanies alight, Surfer Blood didn’t let up from start to finish, with even their slower numbers completely enthralling the crowd. Featuring a fairly even mix of tunes from their 2009 debut Astro Coast and this year’s arguably more mature outing Pythons, the four Floridians delivered an impressively controlled set of blistering guitars and perfectly tuned melodies.

Frontman John Paul Pitts is definitely an interesting dude to watch. Suffering from a fairly serious case of young-in-the-face, JP sometimes seemed like a saintly altar boy praising the heavens and other times, when he’d unleash a guttural shriek worthy of Parkway Drive, he’d descend to pure rock god status, if only for a moment. This is fairly indicative of Surfer Blood’s vibe in general. Just when you think you’ve got them figured out as a punky-beachy-rock outfit they throw in something unexpected or completely alter the tempo, constantly keeping you on your feet.

I think this ambiguous nature of Surfer Blood, straddling a couple of genres at once, caused a bit of confusion in the audience of how exactly to react at some moments. Point in case was what this reviewer is officially deeming the most pathetic attempt at a circle pit in the history of music-kind. Where mere minutes ago JP from the band had entered the crowd in order to distil hugs and handshakes, the middle of the dance-floor suddenly became an avenue for a handful of awkwardly proportioned 18-year-olds to let out some testosterone and run at each other like injured flamingos. It was seriously pitiful. I’d seen more violence in an episode of Rugrats. You know Rugrats? That Nickelodeon cartoon about babies? Yeah. That.

Highlights of the set included a seriously pretty rendition of ‘Miranda’, the band showing off their technical skills with a tight-as-shit ‘Demon Days’ and the biggest moment of the night, a sweaty screamy performance of ‘Swim’. Imparting not only good-as tunes but an infectious sense of elation and enjoyment, Surfer Blood are at the top of their game at the moment and at the top of whatever bloody genre you want to consider them. I vote indie-surf-rock-witch-screamo-dream-pop.

Mitch Feltsheer

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