Last Saturday, The Drums put on a free show at Amoeba Music on Haight St. Pressed up to the front of the stage waiting for the band to appear, I found myself amidst the huddles of teen fan girls. “I’m one of these people,” I thought to myself, with my Instagram app locked, loaded and ready for action.
There is no romantic backstory to how I first began listening to Jonny Pierce’s soothing vocals. Mindlessly listening to Spotify radio during a long road trip, “Down by the Water” began to play through my headphones as I stared out the passenger side window. Soon after, I would find myself laying belly-side-down on my bedroom carpet listening to the same song on repeat, swooning and staring into nothingness. With lyrics drawing inspiration from past lovers that seemed to effortlessly narrate my high school experience, more than ever The Drums are the sounds of my painfully angsty adolescence.
They went to their respective spots on the Amoeba stage like robots and, without skipping a beat, kicked off their set with “Days.” Immediately, the once static bodies began swaying back and forth, and my eyes were locked on Pierce and his dancing, which I can only describe as air-bending.
At that moment, all the road trips and quiet time-outs I would have in my room listening to The Drums and staring into my dreamland, began to mix with the surrealness of standing so close to Pierce. The singer stood center stage, sporting a fire-engine red jacket made from pleather or some other questionable material, and a shirt that said “Patience my a**, I’m gonna kill something.”
As the band shuffled to set up for the next song following “Days,” Pierce spoke to the audience. “Our hearts are so warmed to see so many people here today,” he said. Their remaining set was comprised mostly of songs from their new album, starting it off with, “I Can’t Pretend”.
With the release of their album “Encyclopedia,” it’s been an interesting trip reintroducing the band to my now adult self, as I’m simultaneously trying to part from my emotional teenage baggage. “I Can’t Pretend” blurs the line between my 16-year-old self who would sport a tender heart on her sleeve, and my soon to be 20-year-old self who is so pleasantly detached from anything romantic. The song begins with piercing notes from band member Jacob Graham’s synthesizer, which to me sound like the melodic interpretation of falling tears, followed by the opening verse “It’s too hard to begin when you know it will end” exiting Pierce’s aching vocals. “It’s happening,” I thought to myself, and only seconds into their new song I began to morph into an adolescent blob, swooning over one of the most emotion-inducing frontmen of alternative rock today.
For the rest of the set, I became detached from my moderately dancing body, focusing only on my locked eyes on the stage. “Kiss Me Again”, quickly followed “I Can’t Pretend,” and with upbeat chords juxtaposed against heavy lyrics, I found myself again on an emotional rollercoaster, and Pierce was tossing my insides like a salad.
Thirty minutes of highs and lows, thirty minutes of catching myself embarrassingly listening to them with my eyes closed, and thirty minutes of the deepest swooning I’ve done since Depeche Mode came to town. My reintroduction to The Drums left me with a sense of rejuvenation, along with the need to recompose myself. There are few bands that can put my feelings into song, but The Drums are one of them. It was a sweet release seeing them live, imagining them performing just for me. Leaving their set, I felt as though I had symbolically burned my emotional baggage.