Words: Shayna Chabrow
Photography: Amanda Adam
Thursday night at Holocene, Surfer Blood performed high-spirited set of new and nostalgic songs for an enthusiastic Portland crowd. The band is currently touring off their recently released album, Snowdonia, a record filled with bright, surf rock guitars mixed with strong melodies and wild chord progressions. The album is shadowed by trouble and grief with the band’s founding guitarist Thomas Fekete having died of cancer last May and frontman John Paul Pitts’ mother recently being diagnosed with breast cancer. But, through dark times, the soul-searching album beams hope and strength and that’s exactly what the band brought with them on stage.
Although Pitts dawned a church appropriate outfit with his checkered button-up, black dress pants, and leather boat shoes, he brought a full force of energy as he slashed on his guitar and moved vigorously across the stage after opening with “Neighbour Riffs” and going into the liveliest song off Snowdonia, “Frozen.” He wasted no time expressing how excited the band was to be back in Portland is it had been seven years since they last played at the very same venue when they opened for Japandroids.
New bassist Lindsey Mills and guitarist Michael McCleary were all smiles as they provided warm backing vocals and melodic riffs. Mills was exceptionally endearing as she danced quirkily, shot fingers guns, and jumped back on her feet after leaning back too far when finishing a song. When Surfer Blood played gems from Astro Cast, their scorching debut album that put them on the map, they broke the idleness of those who were too shy to move before and had people singing every lyric back to them. The band was unafraid to go from the surf-pop heavy song “Floating Vibes” into the riling, gritty “Six Flags in F or G” and it worked seamlessly in their favor. They continued to play a handful of songs off of Snowdonia and the crowd was happy to hear long awaited new music from them. “Taking Care of Eddy” had people whipping their hair while “Dino Jay” had them swaying. Pitts transparently put his all into the show as he dropped to his knees with his guitar and picked up a drum stick to screech it across its strings. He consistently made light-hearted, witty banter and knew to mention when songs they played had been written in Portland.
The most engaging part of the set came when Pitts put down his guitar and went with his mic through the crowd while singing “Take It Easy.” He took breaks during the song to note that members of the audience easily looked like his dad with their grandiose beards and would in turn hug them. He introduced members of the band while many couldn’t see where his voice was coming from, but his playfulness made seeing him insignificant. The act took the shows intimacy to a whole other level as he stayed in the crowd for the entirety of the song, most likely making it a first time experience for everyone in the room. Pitt’s wore his heart on his sleeve and the sweat on his back as if he wanted to show Portland that he had never forgotten them and never wanted to leave. By the end of the night, Portland seemed to not want Surfer Blood to leave either.