Live review: The Thermals @ the Bluebird TheaterBy Billy Thieme | October 29th, 2010 | 1 Comment »
So my first time seeing the Thermals on Thursday night left me nearly as spent as the band probably was at the end of the show. I left feeling like I’d been pulled onto a carnival ride by my wrists, dragged through the air and let back on the ground, wondering if the whole thing had really happened.
As I walked into the Bluebird Theater, the place was already frantically bouncing to “I Don’t Believe You” from the new release “Personal Life,” with Hutch Harris hammering his fingers across the strings of his Telecaster and singing in a voice that recalled Robert Pollard, with just a tint of Ian Curtis’ throaty delivery.
Meanwhile Kathy Foster pounded out punky-pop bass lines and carried on a head-banging love affair with her blonde bangs. Westin Glass played the part of a Keith Moon-esque drummer, thrashing and thrusting fast and frenetic beats that never let the trio stop for more than a few seconds between songs.
As much as they seemed to pull their sound from the minute-or-less punk rock method laid down by the Ramones and early Guided By Voices, I also heard a reverence for late ’80s post-punk like the Wedding Present and early ’90s pre-grunge like Bastro coming through. But more than any of those influences, the Thermals were showing signs of their Pixies and maybe a little Superchunk sides.
After all, the number of bands that don’t call Pixies one of their influences is second only to bands that continuously fight too hard to deny the same seminal influence.
Harris, when he wasn’t frantically sawing power chord poppy progressions at rocket speed, emulated Joey Santiago’s surf-based guitar melodies. It was refreshing to see a guitarist play an entire set with almost the same basic sound, rather than one molded by 900 effects pedals. Foster, while she did it with a stronger, more desperate feel, followed in Kim Deal’s (the Breeders) bass prints as she bounced from foot to foot in front of the throngs of awkwardly slamming (mostly) boys at the stage.
The crowd (somewhat thinner than I’d expected) ate up every non-stop minute as the trio powered through new songs like “Your Love Is So Strong” and “Not Like Any Other Feeling” before heading into the familiar “No Culture Icons,” which threw the pit into a final, fitting frenzy.
The show ended relatively early, with a short (and appreciatively punk rock) one-song encore, but definitely not too early to leave just about everyone walking out onto East Colfax seeming satisfied.