SURFER BLOOD + TERRY MALTS @ THE HI HAT

January 21st, 2018 | Live reviews

Photos by Patrick Do Words by Madison Desler

In 2010, iPads first debuted, Lady Gaga stepped out in her infamous meat dress, and Surfer Blood were darlings of the indie music world thanks to their head-banging, shout-along anthem “Swim.” The success of their debut LP, Astro Coast, solidified their status and poised them for greatness. While the intervening years haven’t been the kindest to the high school friends from Florida—dropped criminal charges, a fallout with Warner Brothers, and the tragic death of guitarist and co-writer Thomas Fekete—they’ve continued to churn out surfy, washed-out music with just enough edge.

With a relatively new guitarist—Mike McCleary—and an even newer bass player—Lindsey Mills—frontman John Paul Pitts and drummer Tyler Schwarz have jump-started things once again with Snowdonia. The new LP was at the center of their setlist last night at the Hi Hat in Highland Park, with confident, melodic cuts like “Frozen” and “Matter Of Time” getting the crowd just as hyped as any of the favorites off their debut.

Their alt-surf, guitar-heavy sound is bulkier live—the force of “Miranda” and “Instant Doppelgängers” a departure from the restraint of the recorded versions. It was during “Floating Vibes,” that Mills and Pitt really started to play off each other, locking in as McCleary noodled around on top. The hi-hat heavy, dance vibes of “Take It Easy” provided a high point, with Pitts climbing down from the stage and crawling underneath it, singing the Vampire Weekend-esque melody completely out of sight, while the dedication of the angsty rave-up “Six Flags In F or G” to Fekete served as a poignant reminder of just how far this band has come.

By the time the band counted off “Swim,” the crowd was already waiting for it, letting loose their appreciate shouts as three girls joined them on stage. As they danced around with Mills and Surfer Blood went into the song’s monster chorus, the good vibes and hyped crowd made the brisk January night feel like as good a time as any for a fresh start.

The show was opened by Terry Malts, who cracked plenty of jokes in between a selection of covers and their own high-energy “chainsaw-pop.”