I walk into a pretty empty room, with a couple teens hanging up front, including some girls I’m going to pretend I didn’t see so I don’t have to compliment their crocheted shawls and ask them about college.
Baltimore-born “new age” band Sun Club is already out on stage, looking like a bunch of pubescents that have crawled from a crusty basement to look for pizza rolls after being unbearably frustrated by their inability to level up on Call of Duty. They’re unwashed and greasy, but in the way that makes you sort of impressed and also makes you wonder how much cheeto dust is left on their fingers. I admittedly find myself sort of attracted to them in the teen-girl-way that I and my father both hope dearly that I will grow out of someday.
Their energy is so thick and intense that is dangerous. I watch them thrash around on stage with their hands practically stuck in the strings of their Fenders. They move like have had one (four) too many shots and the boy with the braided rat tail murmurs things into the mic now and then that make me worry about how high he is and if he can make it through the set.
“This song is a little more serious—it’s called ‘Dirty Slurpee.’”
This is the closest I will ever be to a Ramones experience, I think to myself. I wonder if this is what the Jonas Brothers wanted to be—a pubescent Wavves.
Just as my Very Normal friends are starting to get into this Too Loud music, they are lost immediately when the lead singer pulls out a cat puppet that is named either “Darrell” or “Garett” or “Gary” or “Danny”—he really does mumble—and calls him the “sixth member of the band.” Moppy blonde boy starts cheering one of those names, I think maybe “Garett,” and the crowd follows in his lead as best they can considering we’re all chanting four different names. “DAN-NET! GAR-REL! DA-RY!”
They hobble offstage, sweaty and happy, and some kind of aggressive folk music comes on for a while, intermingled with Bob Dylan, and we wait for Surfer Blood. My friends yawn and two of them leave. Half an hour later, Surfer Blood’s lead singer, John Paul Pitts, comes onstage to adjust his guitar and I realize this was the guy who watched me plead with my friends by the front door to spend $15 on this concert and then fangirl over the t-shirts (which I was then too ashamed to buy) at the front of the venue as I came in.
The rest of Surfer Blood shuffles onstage over one and a half thousand chords on the floor, looking 10 years older than Sun Club, like they’re nearing Commitment Age. The crowd does its thing—it’s whooping and hollering. One kid keeps yelling “Surfer BLOOD” in the same way that a frat boy tells his buddy to “CHUG” so that all 50 times he said it, it sounded like he was telling the band to “suck my BUTT!”
The band has started playing a little apathetically, sort of like “here is our set, let’s just get through it.” But it’s good enough that no one really cares. And then I realize maybe this is a normal energy level for bands, I can’t remember, and Sun Club was probably hogging all the acid tabs on the tour bus.
The drummer, Tyler Schwarz, sits in the back, sort of indifferent to his situation, charging his phone and drinking a beer.
They’re all wearing solid color t-shirts—blue, brown, the bassist sports a daring white! Their shoes are all things you’d find in your 13-year-old brother’s closet as he slowly begins to identify himself with what Avril Lavigne so poetically called in 2002, “Sk8er Boi.”
Surfer Blood is from West Palm Beach in Florida, so their sound is what they call “surf rock,” and what I call “an angrier Beach Boys.” Their music most nearly fits this scenario: the soundtrack to a drive through Malibu in sunglasses you paid too much for but still bought because they make you look cool in a retro and rich sort of way.
They remind me of The Drums and the Smiths sort of, but maybe because I haven’t been listening to anything but Morrissey’s melodious sobs in the last 8 days.
This whole time, as I’m bobbing my head obnoxiously next to String Cheese Girl who is still going at it, I’m trying to figure out what Pitts reminds me of. I finally realize it’s a cherub. Like the ones you see on Valentine’s Day cards that say “Be mine” or “I love you” or
The girls next to me wearing headscarves are into it. I hear them say to each other, “He’s weird.”
“He’s so weird.”
“But weird enough that I would hook up with him.”
And like clockwork, this is when Pitts decides to hop off the stage and linger into the crowd just in front of where I’m standing next to these girls.
Cupid soars down from Olympus with his arrow in hand.
I immediately grow tense and start aggressively watching the bassist because I find this to be almost unbearably uncomfortable.
Their energy escalates through their set, or maybe I am just getting more sweaty.
Some kid tells Schwartz that he loves his drum set, and Schwartz says, “You want to play it?”
So the kid hops up on stage and finishes the song: a 4-minute riff that the whole audience is afraid won’t end smoothly.
But it does.
Pitts says “thank you” for the last time, awkwardly sets his guitar down and walks out. My friend asks me if we can go now and just as I’m saying yes, they come back on for the encore. She rolls her eyes as they start playing “Point of No Return.”
Then he says, “this next one’s a cover—hopefully some of you know it.”
I’m fully prepared to be one of the girls that starts cheering after the third chord because I, of course, will know this cover of what I’m certain will be another weird little indie band’s song from 2008. You know, before they got big. The third chord comes and goes and I’m an uncultured and very suburban idiot still.
“Thank you Charlottesville, you were a great crowd. Really, we like you.”
I bet that’s what he says to all the girls wearing headscarves.