Portland, Oregon's The Thermals recently signed to Saddle Creek Records and have a new album, Desperate Ground, due out on April 16th. In support of the album, the band is currently on tour. On Friday, March 8, 2013, they made a stop in Clinton, NY at Hamilton College, and reminded us what a punk band really is: one that plays upbeat, energetic, catchy music with very few stops for breathing in between each song.
The concert took place in the small Fillius Events Barn inside the Beinecke Student Activities Village. Opening the show was New Jersey's Screaming Females, a power trio from New Jersey. Blending punk rock, indie rock, and stoner-rock bass lines, the band put on an entertaining, although slightly repetitive, 40-minute opening set. Buoyed by the onstage persona of guitarist and lead vocalist, Marissa Paternoster, they whet the audience's appetite for rock while leaving us wanting something more. And something more was what we got with The Thermals.
The Thermals are an indie punk rock band currently consisting of Hutch Harris on lead guitar and vocals, Kathy Foster on bass and vocals, and Westin Glass on drums. According to the Saddle Creek website, the band was formed in 2002 and has since released six records and toured fifteen countries (while seeing a number of different drummers come and go until Glass joined the band a few years ago). Their set lasted for a little over an hour in what could be considered the "perfect length for a punk band". As soon as they started, the energy level in the room kicked up about 100 notches and what had been a mass of mostly young, awkward hipster college kids standing around, turned into a sweaty mass of mostly young, awkward, hipster college kids dancing and moshing. And let me tell you something about a sweaty mass of mostly young, awkward, hipster college kids who are dancing and moshing: they have body odor and they fart a lot. And they are not opposed to stepping on the toes of older concertgoers that wish to see a concert without worrying about getting punched in the face while simultaneously trying to avoid an attack on their olfactory senses.
But despite the fact that my own concert-going persona does not necessarily line up with that of most other attendees seeing the punk rock bands I love, the concert was an enjoyable blast of rock and roll. The Thermals played several songs off of their upcoming album (I recognized lead single "Born To Kill" as well as what will likely be one of my favorite tracks off the album, "The Howl of the Winds"). Harris fed off the energy of the young crowd; several times, he came into the audience while continuing to play guitar, and he also took an opportunity to crowd surf. The biggest reactions from the crowd were to songs played from the band's wonderful 2006 album, The Body, The Blood, The Machine, including "Returning To The Fold", "A Pillar of Salt", and the set closer, "Here's Your Future". The energy level of the set was unwavering, as well as the musical chops of the band members. The Thermals are truly a professional punk band and a band I'm incredibly happy to say that I've witnessed live. And at the end of the night, I hadn't gotten punched in the face. Success.