Bowery Ballroom is always a great place to catch a show. Small enough to feel intimate but large enough to attract a decent-sized crowd, it’s often one of the best places to catch newer bands that are on the cusp of wider popularity. And Surfer Blood, who headlined a show at the Ballroom last Friday night, certainly fits that criteria.
The concert opened with True Widow, an odd choice considering their sound is mellow, grungy, emo rock, and Trail of Dead. Regarding Trail of Dead: it was strange to see such incredibly nerdy people acting like headbangers on stage. It seemed that even people who don’t ordinarily like prog rock were very willing to get into Trail of Dead’s music, so much, in fact, that one audience member them actually came on stage and proceeded to steal the bassist’s mic.
I would say that Trail of Dead almost stole the show, but that would be a disservice to Surfer Blood, who gave a mellow but compelling performance. Surfer Blood’s name effectively fits its blend of mellow beach rock. Coming off the wide-ranging success of its most recent album Astro Coast, one would reasonably expect Surfer Blood to charm in every possible aspect. After all, it’s very difficult to dislike surf rock, so it stands to reason that it would take an absolute downer to mess this up. The group’s boyish frontman seemed to understand that everyone in attendance simply wanted to have a good time and he rose to the occasion. He danced wildly on stage, climbing over the drum set and cavorting with his mic stand. In the middle of the set, he stepped out into the audience to have them sing “Twin Peaks” with him. The group also played several new songs, of a similar beach vibe than its older tunes.
For the most part, Surfer Bloods’ live performance matched its sound on the record, a feat that is rarer and rarer these days. But at times, their playing was out of sync and sloppy. Though you wouldn’t notice it from the way he acted, it was actually the rhythm guitarist who was driving the group. While the others flailed about imprecisely on their instruments, he was slow, steady and solid.
Overall, the Bowery Ballroom show was a solid performance from the Florida group, though not a perfect one. Laid back and easygoing, the music is easy to enjoy. Surfer Blood will be back in NYC for a show at the Music Hall of Williamsburg on May 13—if you find yourself with some free time, it’s a band worth seeing.