[Video / review] The Thermals at the Tower Theatre

Thursday, September 9th, 2010, 9:13 am by Ben Salmon

This is the space where I really should give you an extensive review of last night’s PDXchange Program show at the Tower Theatre, featuring Portland indie-punk trio The Thermals.

You know the kind. The kind that says things like the band played a solid, hourlong set of songs drawn almost entirely from their three most recent records. The kind that describes how Hutch Harris and Kathy Foster have grown leaps and bounds since I last saw them (Boise, 2004), from fast/furious fun-punks to creators of some of indie rock’s most anthemic, singalong pop songs.

I’d talk a bit about how Foster may be my favorite bassist, period, and how her pogoing and playing is a joy to watch. And I’d jump from there into an observation of how her bass lines drive many of the songs on The Thermals’ new album “Personal Life,” which came out Tuesday. I’d give you specific examples; she was obviously the engine within “Not Like Any Other Feeling” and “Never Listen To Me,” the latter a slinky new-wave tune that sounded like the old Weezer offshoot The Rentals. (That’s foreshadowing, people. Read on.)

Of course, I’d note Harris’ ability to make magic with power chords. Thermals songs walk a fine line between being a bit same-y and just varied enough to remain interesting. They almost always fall on the right side of that line. And I’d mention the exuberance of drummer Westin Glass, who seems like a good fit for this band after a parade of timekeepers over the years.

I’d offer a little constructive criticism to the PDXchange folks: Something wasn’t quite right with the sound. All night (including for openers The Autonomics), the guitars seemed a tad muffled, and the vocals should’ve been louder. It wasn’t awful, but it wasn’t perfect, and I know the PDXchange team likes things to be perfect. And, of course, I’d wonder aloud whether this was the single most rawkin’ show in the long history of the Tower, a venue known for its acoustics, comfort, and sometimes staid atmosphere. During “St. Rosa and the Swallows,” I could actually feel the theater’s creaky old floor bouncing and straining beneath me as Thermals fans danced around. Late in the evening, a real, live mosh pit broke out — a first in that room, no doubt.

BUT! None of that matters. It was all pretty much blitzed from my brain by the way The Thermals closed the night. They wrapped the main set with one of my absolute favorite songs of the past 10 years, “A Pillar of Salt.” They ended the encore with “No Culture Icons,” the perfect, lo-fi fuzznugget from their first album that introduced me to The Thermals years ago. And in between, they covered Weezer’s “My Name is Jonas.” Behold:

It was glorious. I couldn’t believe how many people in the audience seemed to know every word, singing along and pumping their fists. “But we’re still making noise! MAKING NO-OH-OH-OISE!”

“Pillar” -> “Jonas” -> “Icons” = it didn’t matter to me one bit what The Thermals did in the first hour of their show last night. I mean, they were really good in that hour — better than I expected, actually — but the truth is those last three songs were all I needed. They could’ve come out, played those, and waved goodnight, and I’d have left happy. The rest was just icing on the cake.

Here are a couple other songs from last night:

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One Response to “[Video / review] The Thermals at the Tower Theatre”

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