The Thermals at Rhythm Room Last Night

Rhythm Room, Phoenix
November 17 2010

It was at some point during Portland indie punk trio The Thermals' set last night where I caught myself remembering that I wasn't the biggest fan of the band's 2004 album Fuckin A.

Granted, I was a total spazz back then and my music tastes weren't quite as refined as I would have liked them to be. Upon watching The Thermals tear away at their set, however, I immediately regretted my crude tastes some six years ago. The band's set last night was a workmanlike tribute of a band that has crafted an endearingly simple, punk-driven sound amongst their five albums.

The rather impressive Wednesday night Rhythm Room crowd was eager to witness the indie rock/throwback punk vibes of The Thermals and -- after a slight, five-minute tease after the soundcheck was complete -- Hutch Harris, Kathy Foster and Westin Glass took to the stage, instantly ripping into "I Don't Believe You." The lead single from the band's latest album Personal Life might have spelled out a set heavy with newer material, but a band like The Thermals -- with their extensive catalogue -- benefits from mixing plenty of the old with some of the more appealing new. "I Don't Believe You" and "Never Listen To Me" became quick friends with some older material like "How We Know" and "No Culture Icons." It makes perfect sense -- "I Don't Believe You" and "Never Listen To Me" are from 2010's Personal Life, while "How We Know" is from the aforementioned Fuckin A. While they are six years apart, both albums were produced by Chris Walla -- of Death Cab for Cutie -- and both sound like they could have been recorded months apart. Such is the subtle charm of a band like The Thermals.

To the untrained, unexperienced ear, last night's set could have contained a majority of Personal Life songs -- rightfully so, as the album was released just this September. With such an outstandingly durable catalogue like the The Thermals' own, however, favoring one album over the other would be a disservice to those fans in attendance. Balance was key last night, and Hutch, Kathy and Westin provided their seamless take on it all, managing to crack an occasional joke and hand out plenty of high fives for the rowdily dancing underage crowd.

Sure, some of the over-21 crowd in attendance last night seemed like they didn't want to easily succumb to the aural onslaught provided by The Thermals and join their underage counterparts in letting their dancing inhibitions run free -- damn if the band didn't make it as difficult as possible, though. Again -- such is the undeniable charm of a band like The Thermals.

Critic's Notebook:

Last Night: The Thermals at the Rhythm Room.

Personal Bias: I, like The Thermals, hail from Portland, Oregon. Certain bands have claimed Portland as their home and others have lived there all their lives. The Thermals fall into the category of the latter.

The Crowd: Rowdy youngsters hoping to dance/mosh/jump up and down, a porkpie-hat-befitted hipster or two and a pretty decent number of older couples.

Overheard In The Crowd: This one goes to bassist Kathy Foster upon grabbing a hat thrown at her while onstage, "Guys get underwear thrown at them and I get a beanie?"

Random Notebook Dump: Lead singer Hutch Harris, "I know a lot of bands are boycotting Arizona. We obviously are not. If we boycott Arizona, then we would have to boycott Utah, Washington, Oregon and California." Oh be still, my gentle heart.

Enjoy the delightful video for "I Don't Believe You" starring Carrie Brownstein of Sleater-Kinney fame:

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