Surfer Blood live at BackBooth Orlando, FL
There’s nothing like a rock and roll show. Four guys, shaggy hair, with guitars tied to their necks in a smoky bar. The crowd was thick and the music loud, as native Florida indie rockers Surfer Blood controlled the room.
Surfer Blood, led by John Paul Pitts and his band of stoner comrades, broke into the national scene with their debut album Astro Coast in 2009, heralded by SPIN, Pitchfork and Rolling Stone alike. In recent light of their sophomore album “>Pythons and the success of the single “Demon Dance,” Surfer Blood is (excuse the pun) riding the wave of hype towards good things.
But not hype in a sense of theatrics, they’re dressed like the crowd, guitarist Thomas Fekete slouched over an American Stratocaster, garbed in an over-sized sweater. While John Paul Pitts (or JP) stands upright, the cherub clenching his guitar and singing in a harmonious pitch. Psychedelic, pop infused verses the playfully lead to a harmony chorus with all three-axe men in sync.
Playing mostly off Astro Coast, Surfer Blood sampled from the newest album with great crowd reaction. Although JP had complete control of the packed room, it was during more intimate tracks the room stood dazed.
But with all this, the one thing I did not get was the show. The songs were well played, catchy and the energy was great. But in the end I watched four guys dressed like myself playing songs that I had heard before. I had heard that JP was very awkward yet connected with the crowed in between songs. But he only thanked them shyly. Perhaps they were tired, or lost the energy that night. But it was solely a musical performance. Which would be a problem, if the music weren’t such an ear delight.
The highlight of the show was the crowd pleaser “Take it Easy.” The room erupted with the chop chop of the riff, JP shuffles around leading towards the edge of the stage. The chorus hits and he steps into the crowd, greeted by a harmony chorus sing along. As the second verse dance party calms for the singsong chorus he sits upon the edge of the stage. Taking in the crowd’s adoration, he sat slouched as if he was hitting your bong in the living room.
Expect a string of solid albums from the Florida metaphor that is Surfer Blood. With their comfortable disposition and the beach day crunch and pop they carry. They are musicians that you know, the guys who won the battle of the band and smoked your weed at parties. But they have a nationally recognized name, and a banging sound.
Be sure to check out the latest release, Pythons at their YouTube page. But if that’s not doing it for you, spin the debut Astro Coast. I’m sure you’ll understand why they are a band to watch.
(Before we get started, just a reminder that we have a slew of photos from the festival itself and all of the bands we reviewed coming this week. Check our Facebook and Twitter for updates. Thanks for visiting…)
Eleven of today’s hottest Indie/Alternative rock acts
An eclectic collection of food truck cuisine
The best selection of craft beers we’ve ever seen at a festival
Great Florida November weather
An excellent, well-laid out venue
A superbly well-orchestrated event
Sounds like a perfect recipe for success, and Coastline Festival’s Musiculinary Experience was prepared perfectly.
We made the trip from Orlando hoping to catch a few of Alternative rock’s future stalwarts as they continue their journey to long-term success. We got that for sure, as you’ll see in our band capsules below, but we also experienced a vibrant, positive festival atmosphere.
The venue was laid out nicely with the smaller Gulf Stage just outside of the Mid-Florida Credit Union Amphitheater and the Atlantic Stage inside the venue. The grounds were festively decorated, with inflatable art, and colorful displays dotting the landscape.
Travelling between the stages, the attendees passed through a Food Truck caravan and a Craft Beer Cove that featured a dozen excellent choices, and in a nice touch, offered $3 samples of each offering. The lines at the food trucks were long as the day passed. Talenti gelati had a fun area set-up with super-sized lawn games and free sample of their delicious treats. On the opposite end of the venue was a nice craft area and the autograph tent, which hosted a constant flow of performers and happy fans.
Despite all of the other activities, this festival’s success hinged on the quality of the music artists, and the eight acts we caught were all excellent. Due to a long-standing commitment at another event, we ended up missing the final three bands, but the eight who opened show were well worth the price of admission. Our mini-reviews follow, in the order that the bands performed.
Zulu Wave – This local quartet did a great job representing the Tampa rock scene, offering an energetic set and their unique blend of rock that I would best describe as Tribal-rock. It sounds like an unusual description, but the music was good, and the band clearly has potential.
Blondfire – I just loved their recent EP release Where The Kids Are (see the review here) and was interested to see how this young band would perform on a big stage. Led by brother-sister duo Bruce and Erica Driscoll, the band offered up a fun set. Lead singer, Erica donned a guitar for the cool grove of “Waves” and shined during an excellent version of Fleetwood Mac’s classic “Dreams,” when she nailed the vocals that Stevie Nicks made famous. The band offered two excellent new cuts, “Life of the Party” and “Top of the World,” before closing with their hit single “Where The Kids Are” that had the crowd clapping and singing along.
St. Lucia – I didn’t know much about this Brooklyn band, but liked what I heard. The band is the brainchild of South African born Jean Philip Grobler and they offered up a tropical-infused dance rock that made you want to move. The quintet featured two drum kits and three keyboards, allowing for some fun mixes. Grobler’s vocals were excellent and he put on a bit of a theatrical show, at one time spinning with his guitar before dropping to the stage. As they wrapped the set, he beckoned the crowd, “Let’s do something crazy cause the weekends on its way; okay, let’s jump!” and the party was on.
The Mowgli’s – With a pounding drum beat, this colorful octet stormed onto the stage and immediately got their celebration started with the title track of their new album, Waiting For the Dawn. It’s one of our candidates for album of the year, so I knew what to expect musically, but I was blown away by their energetic stage show. They offered up tremendous harmonies in a fantastic version of “The Great Divide” and a raucous version of “Emily.” Their music is contagious and their positive energy captivating. Guitarist Michael Vincze shared, “We came all this way to tell your beautiful souls to believe in yourself and anything is possible. Do whatever makes you happy in life! Now put your hands up, take a deep breath and scream.” Cleansing, therapeutic and just pretty damn fun. They closed in the middle of the crowd, with a smashing version of their hit “San Francisco” which may have been the song of the festival.
Surfer Blood – As singer John Paul Pitts shared, “We’re from Florida and glad to be back.” The band features smooth Indie rock with a definite surfing subtext to their sound. The sound works well, and offers the perfect backdrop for Pitts’ versatile vocals, at times hitting the high notes and just as easily offering a snarling growl. As they wrapped up their set, we saw our first act of spontaneous crowd surfing.
Fitz And The Tantrums -Another band who stormed onto the stage and then kept the energy up for their entire set. Michael Fitzpatrick and Noelle Scaggs share the vocals and demand constant attention on the stage. Both singers sounded great and were non-stop action as they bounced across the stage. Scaggs, careened around the stage while constantly banging her tambourine and chatted with the Tampa crowd after every song. The pit was a surging amoeba answering every dictum from the band, hands high above their heads, clapping throughout. Highlights of their set included an extended version of The Eurythmics’ Sweet Dreams that caused a spontaneous dance party on the lawn, and a smoking version of “Out of My League.”
The Neighbourhood – This California-based quintet might be the hottest band we saw at Coastline Festival. They are riding a huge crest of popularity that has found their music all over Alternative rock radio as well as on the small screen. Tattoo-covered lead singer Jesse Rutherford drips with charisma. He was a whirling dervish all over the stage and adorned in his “D.A.R.E.” shirt interacted with the crowd throughout the set. He had the entire crowd in the palm of his hand, singing along at his commend. Despite some early sound troubles, the entire band, adorned in their omnipresent black and white sounded superb, as they delivered crowd-pleasing versions of “Sweater Weather,” “Afraid” and “Female Robbery,” while the crowd surfed, danced and sang.
Matt & Kim – Okay, I’ll admit it, I wasn’t expecting much from this duo out of New York as I mistakenly thought of their stuff as a bit soft. Oh my, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Matt Johnson and Kim Schifino ooze energy and excitement. Matt plays keyboards, and Kim beats the drums, and the real-life couple accompany each other on-stage perfectly. Schifino was a mad-woman, climbing all over her drum kit, smacking her ass and prowling the stage in general. Johnson was just as energetic and sounded great all night. They interacted with the crowd throughout, sharing stories and bonding with the crowd. We learned about their sex life, the fact that this is the band’s penultimate stop on this tour, and their appreciation for the great Florida weather. Johnson offered, “This is the finale and I wanna remember this shit when it’s cold in New York. Let’s heat it up,” and for the next forty minutes, they raised the party to a fever pitch.
It was a great way for us to wrap up a killer day at the inaugural Coastline Festival. Hopefully this event that so nicely featured the best of today’s alternative rock music scene becomes an annual tradition for Florida’s rock and roll community.