Free shows are a crapshoot; part of what makes a show electrifying is the crowd, and free shows tend to draw the “drink and oh yeah there’s music” crowd. Last night’s the Drums and Chairlift show was free, but thankfully, it avoided the pitfalls that befall these sorts of events. SPIN and Diet Coke partnered up to put on the show, and perhaps it was the availability of free soda that made everyone excited and in the mood to dance.
Either way, by the time the DJ set by FaltyDL was over, Chairlift made their way on to the stage to a cheering, packed venue. They did not disappoint. Bringing their talent for searching out corners of the ’80s pop scene, the duo-but-actually-foursome-live held the room under control for its short set, featuring highlights from this year’s Something as well as that one song everyone knows from the iPod ad. It was “Bruises” that most riled the venue, for obvious reasons, so it was an unexpected pleasure to hear the band cut in the middle to pay tribute to Modern English, sneaking in a couple of lines from “I Melt With You” to joyous recognition from the crowd. By the time the best song from Something closed the set (“Amanaemonesia,” which Google tells me is not a real word), the crowd was practically swooning over singer Caroline Polachek’s vocalizations and charmingly awkward dance moves.
Then it was a rather long wait before The Drums came out to play, full of their trademark charming guitar rock and expert craftsmanship. Their songs sound as vibrant and glossy as they do on the record, with the added bonus of Jonathan Pierce’s frankly shocking charisma. Having never seen The Drums live (nor read too much about their performances), I was not expecting the red jacket and the energetic dancing that came from the bowl-cut-sporting singer. The band did their job, laying down their surf rock and synth pop tunes with perfect accuracy, leaving the act of elevating the show to their frontman. One thing to note about The Drums is that they have a carefree sense about them that’s infectious. In other words, it got even the most sullen audience members to open up and at least move their feet in place. It’s a bit jarring, given the more downtrodden parts of their catalogs, but the Morrissey comparisons that have been bandied about for Pierce aren’t far off. Sadness can be attractive, from a musical sense, and The Drums milked that principle to its fullest to a crowd of willing converts.