There is something refreshing about a real rock show complete with sweaty 20-something musicians who want to be nowhere else than slaying their instruments forever. Complete with hoping into the audience, broken strings, PBR and the crowd dancing on stage, Team Spirit and Surfer Blood performed an unpretentious set of ’90s throwback and rock music at Larimer Lounge on Wednesday.
Team Spirit provided all of their five songs from their self-titled EP with a playful yet refined sound. While the band only has a handful of recorded tracks, they bring the energy of an entire set during their brief time on stage. Throughout their self-proclaimed “power-pop” set, frontman Ayad Al Adhamy launched into the crowd. While shenanigans ensued, they kept their heavy hitting drums and guitar riffs on point.
Surfer Blood took the stage early, kicking off their hour-plus set with a melodic surf-rock tune “Neighbor Riffs,” which was heavy with instrumentals and catchy riffs and completely absent of lyrics.
Guitarist Thomas Fekete validates Surfer Blood’s reputation as a great guitar band, while drummer TJ Schwartz and bassist Tyler Schwarz kept the music tight and under control. Frontman JP Pitts brought more variation to his vocal range than expected, given his comfortable range on record. He kept his vocals crisp and clean until the carefully placed (and welcomed) guttural screams.
On its sophomore album “Pythons,” Surfer Blood collaborated with renowned producer Gil Norton, who constructed the early alternative rock and post-punk albums with the Pixies and Foo Fighters. The Denver show brought out Surfer Blood’s more refined and mature side, showcasing its ability to mix garage rock sensibilities with a whole lot of reverb to achieve a ’90s dream pop and surf rock love child.
The band’s sound is a less polished and brighter take on Interpol’s pulsing bass lines and low-growling lyrics. Some songs felt a little monotonous with the same general progression leading each song, but Surfer Blood did its best to vary tempo and volume to keep the audience’s attention.
After a very short intermission for a broken string, Pitts apologized no less than 12 times and then journeyed back to the music. The climax of the show arrived halfway through the set with the reggae-induced rocker “Take It Easy,” where Pitts awkwardly jumped into the crowd with his guitar and mike in tow to dance among the people. Pitts brought up six people from the crowd for “Demon Dance,” and announced “the rest of you can come up on stage after the second verse.”
The set included a mix of songs from the band’s 2009 debut “Astro Coast” as well as the latest album “Pythons,” which dropped in June of this year. To the delight of the too-cool-to-dance crowd, Surfer Blood ladled in a number of brand new tracks with the highlight of its second to last song “Swim.”
After relentless requests from the crowd, Surfer Blood ended the show with “Drinking Problem.” Slower and more sultry than the rest of the set, “Drinking Problem” built into the more energetic three-song encore of “Prom Song,” “Catholic Pagans” and “Anchorage.”
John Leyba is a Denver Post photojournalist and regular contributor to Reverb.