Brooklyn – Florida indie rockers Surfer Blood played Music Hall of Williamsburg May 11th in support of their just released third LP, 1000 Palms, noted as “their most mature record to date” by Best New Bands here and released on indie label Joyful Noise. Despite a turbulent couple of years that saw the band dropped from major label Warner and marred by various issues, it was made clear that Surfer Blood’s five years together has both won and kept them a multitude of loyal fans in the process.
The weeknight Brooklyn show emanated the band’s groove itself by staying low-key and fun. Frontman John Paul Pitts maintained this easy simplicity and didn’t talk much, simply introducing the band with a few choice words (“we’re Surfer Blood”) and letting the set speak for itself. The message seemed to be that despite any past obstacles, the focus on music that made the band adored by so many in the indie set was first and foremost on display. Reintroducing themselves throughout the set, Surfer Blood’s understated and playful onstage personas kept the vibes positive and hopeful, illustrating the easy and infectious riffs and chords that garnered their initial appeal.
This emphasized and upbeat atmosphere played a particularly important role in lieu of the recent revelation that longtime guitarist Thomas Fekete had been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. Pitts reminded the crowd about the Bowery Ballroom-hosted benefit show towards funding Fekete’s treatment, held the next day and featuring several bands including We Are Scientists and The Pains of Being Pure at Heart.
Despite these serious undertones, it was evident that Fekete’s bandmates had honored his wish that the tour and shows must go on, with the life in their songs celebrated. Playing a setlist that spanned tracks from Astro Coast, Pythons and 1000 Palms, it was obvious most fans were supporters who had been there from the beginning of Surfer Blood’s career. When Pitts announced “I’m going to play my favorite song” and launched into a rendition of “Take It Easy” from Astro Coast, the dynamic enthusiasm and support from the crowd was palpable.
The band was also joined on stage at one point by frontman Jonas Stein of Turbo Fruits, the Nashville-based support act on this leg of Surfer Blood’s North American tour. With little forewarning Pitts hopped into the front of the crowd and, hyped on the crowd’s approval, laid on his back on the front of the stage and sang vocals while Stein played Pitt’s guitar part on stage. The chemistry and camaraderie of everyone on stage was crystal clear, and if 1000 Palms was made as a labor of the growth and development of an act with perhaps a touch of nostalgia, their gig at Music Hall of Williamsburg took this vision and made it a reality.
The band played a two song encore, leaving the stage for less than a minute before promptly returning, culminating the show with longtime fan favorite “Swim.” Surfer Blood’s gig certainly proved that in a time of darkness, sometimes a bit of joyful and carefree music is all you need to know that everything’s going to be okay, at least for the present.
Catch Surfer Blood on tour in North America throughout the end of June.
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