It’s Friday night in Melbourne and music fans are faced with a difficult decision: EMA, Yuck, The Horrors and M83 are all playing sideshows before their Laneway appearances, making the night an indie music fan’s dream (or nightmare for the indecisive). This fact is not lost on The Drums’ lead singer Johnny Pierce who thanks the crowd at the Palace for choosing to spend their Friday night with his pop quintet; “I know we have a lot of competition tonight, so thanks for coming out to see us.”
Billed as a double headline show with fellow New Yorkers Cults, it’s clear from the moment we arrive that it’s a divided crowd. Cults’ Lead singer Madeleine Follin is sultry but spends a chunk of time swaying along to the music with her long, dark hair covering her face. But final track ‘Oh My God’ provides enough motivation for punters to move closer towards the stage.
The Drums bounce on stage to enthusiastic cheers from the audience, with the loudest squeals saved for Pierce, who cuts a retro figure in his printed shirt and high waisted jeans…and a chatty figure at that. “Hello we’re The Drums from New York City” Pierce says as they kick off with ‘What You Were’ and ‘Best Friend’. The frontman continues to provide introductions to tracks until he muses “I’ve talked a lot tonight haven’t I? Just tell me to shut up.”
It’s not Pierce’s on-stage banter or bowl haircut that is his most endearing attribute, it’s his dad-style dance moves. His unabashed mix of hand jive and Cox-Springsteen 80s stylings are contagious and soon enough, the entire audience have shed their hipster inhibitions and are doing the same. I spot a glassie putting his broom aside to try the moves out for himself and suspect this might be the only Laneway sideshow where the venue staff are dancing as though they’re cast members in Footloose.
It’s clear that The Drums are relishing playing material from new album ‘Portamento’, which makes up the bulk of the night’s set list. ‘Money’ (recently crowned number 51 in Triple J’s Hottest 100 countdown) is the track of the night while ‘Book of Revelation’ is the most important song in the bands repertoire according to Pierce.
Songs from The Drums’ self- titled debut album prove to be the real fan favourites however. The first few chords of ‘Let’s Go Surfing’ ring out and mayhem ensues, the entire dance floor pulsating with spirited jumping. The playful ‘Down, down baby, down by the rollercoaster’ refrain is sung with such fervour that it’s easy to forget that it was the same song you handclapped along to at primary school. Despite the feeling that Pierce might be rushing through ‘Forever and Ever Amen’, the crowd is enjoying every second. Guys are on their friends shoulders crooning ‘It’s forever, baby it’s forever’ so heartily that the chorus becomes anthemic rather than cheesy.
Finally, Pierce requests that the lights are turned down and we are serenaded with the romantic ‘Down By the Water’. I suspect that like me, most of the audience wish they were holding hands with a summer fling but we settle for waving our hands in the air instead. It’s almost a shame The Drums saved this more mellow moment for the end of the show when it might have served better mid-set to break up their standard indie-pop fare.
Pierce and co. return for an encore including ‘It Will All End In Tears’ and thank us yet again for kicking off our weekend with them. It’s hard not to feel heartened by the innocence and sincerity of The Drums’ tunes and I’m clearly not the only one who thinks they’ve made the right sideshow call tonight. “That was fucked up good” I hear one kid says to his friends, and I can’t help but agree.
View the photo gallery from The Drums/ Cults’ Sydney show here.