If you like The Ramones, you probably would have loved last night's show. I know that's a lofty comparison, but Portland DIY pop punk trio The Thermals performed relatively simple but uber-catchy songs that kept the crowd moving throughout its 20 song set.
Before The Thermals took the stage, I overheard some fans reminiscing about the band's performance at the Rhythm Room a few years ago. Everyone said it was a fun, and somewhat crazy show, leading me to expect some moshing and crowd-surfing. The moment the band opened with "You Will Find Me," from its latest album, Desperate Ground, which is only a few months old, the 15 or so fans closest to the stage started dancing and jumping around and did not slow down until the show was over.
The Thermals played a good mix of material from Desperate Ground, The Body, The Blood, The Machine, and More Parts Per Million. The songs from the band's debut album, More Parts Per Million were the best received, though fans continued to enthusiastically sing along to songs like "The Howls of the Winds."
The band was equally entertaining to watch, as singer/guitarist Hutch Harris frequently crouched down to play guitar close to the crowd. Fans jumped and lightly bumped into each other during "A Pillar of Salt," setting the tone for "Now We Can See." The crowd sang along with the "whoas" and moved faster with every chorus, prompting some fans to stage dive. This didn't work well as the crowd wasn't densely packed enough, but that didn't stop Harris from crowd surfing with a bit of success toward the end of the song.
The setlist was in plain view, leading most fans to expect the show to end after the fast-paced "Overgrown, Overblown!," but the crowd demanded an encore, bringing the band back for another More Parts Per Million track--"No Culture Icons."
The Thermals had one opener, Man Hands. This local four piece performs an innovative mix of punk and garage rock with an in-your-face riot grrl aesthetic. Jackie Cruz and Marc Berry switched off on vocal duties, with Berry giving the songs a biting punk edge, and Cruz channeling the likes of Carrie Brownstein or X-Ray Spex's Poly Strene. The end result sounded like what might have happened if Kathleen Hanna fronted Mission of Burma, which is a very good thing. Check out setlists and more pictures on page two. The Thermals Setlist:
Man Hands Setlist:
Critic's Notebook: Last Night: The Thermals and Man Hands at Crescent Ballroom. Personal Bias: I may or may not have been responsible for turning the group of pogoing fans into an actual pit a few times. The Crowd: Friendly indie geeks. Overheard in the Crowd: "I didn't realize the drummer [of The Thermals] was so hot." Random Notebook Dump: Hutch Harris looks like Sheldon Cooper.