Unlikely rock stars are the best kind of rock stars. There is no pretension, no posturing, just a genuine aim to please. Surfer Blood may not be the most energetic band in their genre of hook-laden rock ‘n roll, but they may be the friendliest. Playing to a small, but loyal, crowd late in to the night at the TLA on Friday, the four unassuming gents from Florida skated through a quick set that hit all the right notes, even if it clocked in at just over an hour.
John Paul Pitts is a kind of everyman front for the group. When he attempts the tried-and-true live act tropes (dueling guitars, head banging solos), he looks almost uncomfortable. Warming up to the mic is when he appears to be the most at home, making eye contact with the audience, and soaking up their attention. The rest of the band seems content to let him be the center of attention, playing along when he acknowledges their existence, but laying low when he is back on point. It may seem boring to some, but it makes them seem approachable, and in an odd way, brought a lot of us closer to them. Maybe you had to be there. If you were, my guess is you spent most of the night dancing or singing along.
The songs themselves sounded great. Especially the numbers from Astro Coast, the band’s 2010 debut LP. Stripped of its heavy reverb, “Swim” is a much rawer piece of power pop. The jarring screaming that pokes its head out on the newer album, Pythons, especially in pieces like “Demon Dance” seems to make sense live when partially drowned out by effects-laden guitars. Instrumental portions were drawn out in appropriate places, but even then they rarely top 3 minutes. Short and to the point. The front row even got a serenade, as Pitts hoisted himself on the barricade, supporting himself on the shoulders of a few welcoming fans. It all made for a low key, intimate affair, even though the songs themselves lean towards encouraging a more lively event.