The lines for the Palladium blocked foot traffic on Sunset Boulevard Saturday night. It’s been so hot and sticky in Los Angeles the past week or so that everyone seems anxious to leave the air conditioned apartments and ceiling fans they’ve been heavily relying on for survival and seek some social interaction. Conversations carry loudly through the venue halls and common areas. One of the best parts of the Palladium is that there’s an old-fashioned popcorn machine in the back, it really makes it feel more like you’re there for the theatre or the cinema rather than a rock show.
It’s a good sign when the line at the merch booth is just as enthusiastic as the line outside the box office and the die-hard enthusiasm for New York indie pop outfit The Drums is omnipresent throughout the venue. I pass a kid in the lobby donning dark red makeup with a custom bejeweled full-body jumpsuit bearing the band’s moniker on the back in rhinestones. The Drums certainly have a sound reminiscent of late 80’s new wave music but in a polished sort of way. The music is happy, the words are sad and that’s the way new wave is intended to be. The fans of course burst into voluble excitement as frontman Jonathan Pierce takes the stage. The drums have recently released their fifth full-length album titled Brutalism despite the softness of the album artwork and the sweet-tempered hopefulness of the newer material. The material I had come to know and love seems to be the sadder, more brooding stuff seemingly sandwiched between the blissful, capricious ‘Let’s Go Surfing’ from their self-titled first album and the similarly bright energy of ‘Body Chemistry’, a track The Drums played for the Palladium crowd off the Brutalism album. I was happy to hear ‘Money’, a track selected from the 2011 album Portamento make Saturday night’s setlist. Always a crowd-pleaser with relatable lyricism, ‘Money’ is a song about feeling like there is no measure of material appreciation to show people how much you love them.
“You hit me yesterday because I made you cry/so before I die I’d like to do something nice/I’d like to buy you something but I don’t have any money” Jonathan slips into a falsetto head voice for the last part of the chorus on the track. I can remember the summer that Portamento was released and we still relied heavily on internet radio to dictate much of our music taste. That’s when The Drums were in heavy rotation for myself and my friends. They have such a similar sound to many 80’s through early 2000’s artists that we’ve known and loved but The Drums bring something new to the same beach-bound sad girl playlist.
Seeing The Drums on a massive stage space like The Palladium gives the songs and sound a new light to bathe in. As a performer, Jonathan Pierce floats across the performance space in suspended ecstasy. Despite being very present in his delivery, he gives the impression he’s performing alone in his room for his own pleasure alone. There’s an air of confidence in Jonathan’s performance which he took the time to attribute to the monumental affect the Southern California scene has had on his success and the success of The Drums right from the very beginning of Jonathan’s career. His monologue of gratitude and his sumptuous performance for The Drums fans of Los Angeles did not go unappreciated as fans begged for an encore long past the last farewells. We left the venue content, newly appreciative of the Brutalism album and exhilarated to share the photos of the evening with the Janky Smooth community. The Drums will be continuing their Brutalism tour with a few more dates in the U.S. and Canada.
Words by: Aria Silva-Espinosa
Photos by: Marissa Torres