For all the grit and guts conjured up by Surfer Blood’s name and lyrics, the band members carry themselves like well-mannered gentlemen onstage. Standing in the presence of this Florida-based rock and roll band, the struggles described in their tunes sound more like optimistic anthems. Due to lead singer John Paul Pitts’ usual poker face and the group’s immaculately cohesive jamming, it’s the sheer catchiness of each song that shines.
Citing an emotional connection with the Pacific Northwest, the group scheduled three shows at the Sunset Tavern in January 2014 and surrounded them with additional appearances in Portland, OR, and Vancouver, BC. Attending two out of the three shows at the Sunset Tavern, I noticed heaps of differences between them, despite taking place within one week of each other.
Surfer Blood’s January 4th appearance at the Ballard establishment was lively for sure, but unfolded with a bit of stiffness, as if fresh and clean as the newly-born 2014 itself. Washington-grown duo Cock & Swan began the night with ethereal tunes and poetry-slamesque lighting, cloaking the Tavern in dusky vibes. Next up were the downright lovable Portland group Wild Ones. Danielle Sullivan’s voice was somehow simultaneously coy and peppy, and the band’s evident giddiness onstage was icing atop their gratifying pop-rock cake.
Perhaps the contemplative feel of these two openers carried over into Surfer Blood’s delivery. While the execution was seamless, I did notice my pet peeve taking place: people in the front row who weren’t dancing in the slightest. At an upbeat rock and roll event, why choose to occupy that coveted space if not to, you know, freak out a little? Thankfully, there were plenty of jaws dropped in joy when Pitts walked right down into the crowd during “Take It Easy,” and by the time their set wrapped up, everyone made the room rumble so much, the encore was especially satisfying.
On January 10th, the Sunset Tavern felt noticeably more energetic. With two vibrant local bands opening the show -- the fantastically fun Dude York and groove-rock gurus Hibou -- there was no way Surfer Blood could come out anything but on fire. While their first set has started with the buoyant but lesser-known “Fast Jabroni”, this night’s began with “Floating Vibes,” initiating a veritable singalong. They also included “Catholic Pagans,” one of their most lyrically-rich songs.. When Pitts entered the crowd this time around, he wrapped his arms around multiple people, dancing all the way. The front row was filled with headbangers and rug-cutters, and this evening’s encore featured people cheering as loudly as the guitars were shrieking.
Equal parts surfer jams and garage rock, Surfer Blood’s sound resonated perfectly within the intimate Sunset Tavern atmosphere, and having concerts in such quick succession only proved the guys are at the top of their game. Seeing how both events sold out, I’d urge any live music lover to buy tickets to their January 17th show as soon as possible. It’s their final stop in Seattle for this current tour, and something tells me they’re going to make it their best.
Words//Photos by AJ Dent