“Holy shit! We don’t even need to warm you guys up,” said Thermals frontman Hutch Harris as he paused to let his bandmates collect themselves after opening their March 4 show at TT the Bear’s with a wildly energetic rendition of “Here’s Your Future.” He was right, but it wasn’t because the opening bands (the Big Sleep, Read Yellow, the Perennials) worked some kind of magic on the crowd, but rather because the Thermals stepped up to the tiny stage at T.T.’s and delivered exactly what the sold-out crowd wanted: raw, upbeat, pop-tinged post-punk.
Harris and bassist Kathy Foster (also of Hutch and Kathy and the All Girl Summer Fun Band) recorded all of the tracks on the Thermals’ most recent release, 2006’s The Body, the Blood, the Machine (Sub Pop), but they brought two musicians along for the tour to take over rhythm guitar and drumming duties. At T.T.’s, the band sounded as tight live as it does on record, never missing a beat and keeping the energy high. They worked through the majority of The Body, the Blood, the Machine, their third album, and threw in some old favorites from 2003’s More Parts per Million and 2004’s Fuckin’ A. The band mostly stuck to their fast-paced material, keeping the set lively but preventing the members of the crowd from catching their breath. (A calmer song such as the beautifully simplistic “Test Pattern” would have offered a nice respite.)
Between songs, Harris kept his interaction with the crowd to a minimum, but he was clearly excited by the crowd’s enthusiasm — and he clearly loves his job as frontman. He grinned throughout the set and waved his hands wildly whenever he had free second between guitar riffs. He ate up the crowd’s response, and in turn the crowd fed off the band. Song after song the crowd continued to move, dancing, pointing, pogoing, handclapping, and even some crowd surfing, and Harris responded by playing each consecutive song with more sincerity and intensity.
The hopelessness and desperation that constitutes the subject matter of Harris’s politically charged lyrics comes in sharp contrast to the poppy melody of the band’s music. The crowd’s response seemed to depict a genuine connection with the band’s general message: “Sure, were all fucked, but let’s have a good time while we can.”
“Pillar of Salt” video: http://www.subpop.com/assets/video/2980.mov