Yes, the Thermals played in my neighborhood at 285 Kent Thursday, but I had tix to the sold-out The Men show at Bowery that night. But with multiple area shows, there was no fuckin' way I was going to miss The Thermals on their brief pre-SXSW visit to the Northeast. Y'kiddin' me?
Actually getting to Maxwell's is always easier than I remember. So why have I, a dedicated live music fan, seen so few shows at Maxwell's? Well, first off, most bands that play here wind up doing at least one night across the river at one of the Bowery-owned venues, most of which are super close to me. Second off, I'm not always in the mood for Hoboken's bullshit. It always seems to me like Hoboken is mostly populated by a bunch of obnoxious lower-tier frat / sorority refugees, and enough unpleasant Type-A douchebags to make me remember why I ran away screaming from suburban Long Island. Plus, it always seems that regardless of the season, people are ALWAYS wearing Mardi Gras beads in Hoboken, which, face it, is fuckin' lame.
That being said, Maxwell's is a pretty sweet place to see a show - for a tiny room it's loud as hell and bands really seem to be invigorated by the intimacy of the setting. And in my few times at Maxwell's, the crowds seem to be sufficiently "into it," drinking heavily and unafraid to rock the eff out unlike the crowds at most of the Brooklyn shows I attend.
After walking around Hoboken aimlessly for a good hour-plus, I finally went into Maxwell's for good about halfway through the band TEEN's opening set. Unfortunately, I walked in right as the band was having serious tuning issues. This totally killed any momentum their set could've head for me, but honestly this type of stuff just isn't my favorite either way; there's been enough of this underpracticed, dreamyish indie pop in Williamsburg for the last several years to choke a decent-sized sinkhole (I wish!). Props to the singer, though; she had a pretty solid mastery of her upper register singing.
As the Thermals started setting up their gear, I had to wonder what would be in store for this evening: a show leaning heavily on old stuff, or one designed to feature their upcoming album, Desperate Ground (due April 16th). Actually, it turned out to be both, and in heaping portions, with tons of stuff from their 10-year-old debut, More Parts Per Million and a shitload of new songs.
The set itself served as an in-your-face primer on How to Rock the Fuck Out, as taught by Kathy, Westin and Hutch. Kathy pogoed all night long, Westin stage dove so many times I lost count, and Hutch worked up a furious sweat, diving blindly backwards into the eager crowd several times WHILE STILL PLAYING HIS GUITAR. [See directly below.]
This is a band that's truly not afraid to challenge itself, and one need look no further than the new album's uptempo vibe for proof. This translated itself into a setlist that included nary a single song off of the Thermals' more "mature" (read: slower paced) previous two albums, Now We Can See and Personal Life. I can't imagine it's terribly "easy" to play 75 minutes of breakneck "happy punk" every night, but clearly there was a conscious decision by the band to go back to their Ramones / Misfits-inspired roots and bring the fire. I, for one, felt Personal Life seemed a bit too calculated and "careerist" of a move, so I salute the brave new (old) direction of the new songs.
Towards the end of the set, Hutch mentioned that they'll be coming back through the NYC area for some shows "at the end of May." Great news. See ya then, guys!