Surfer Blood's JP Pitts Shares His Top Five Most Memorable Local Gigs
It's been a minute since fuzzed-out, home-bred blog sensation Surfer Blood played a local show. You haven't forgotten about our cherished West Palm Beach college rock purveyors, have you? Despite releasing an album on a major label, performing on Jimmy Kimmel Live, and touring the world a few times over, these dudes have never forgotten where they came from.
And it is with open arms that we welcome Surfer Blood back for a prized local show tonight at one of the most befitting spots in our area, Respectable Street Café, where the group first got its start.
It got us thinking, if you're like us, you've probably witnessed Surfer Blood's wondrous Pixie-ish start-stop dynamics a few dozen times. Engulfed with nostalgia, we started reflecting back to our favorite local Surfer Blood gigs. We've been there since the beginning, after all, since its first iteration as TV Club at the Museum of Contemporary Art in 2008, when the band wowed us with an indie rock spunk on par with lo-fi giants like Weezer and Built to Spill.
We asked John Paul Pitts, Surfer Blood's lead singer, which of the group's local shows were the most memorable for him. Here's exactly what he said, word for word.
5. Random Backyard Gig in Jupiter Farms, circa 2009
"We had a friend named Tommy Coleman who used to have shows at his house that were big events. He lived way out in Jupiter Farms, so there was plenty of room in his backyard, and his neighbors were apparently far enough away that the noise didn't bother them.
"His mother would cook chili (for vegans and non-vegans) and he would invite all kinds of bands, both local and sometimes from out of state.
"I was impressed, there was a band called We Versus the Shark from Athens, Georgia, who drove all the way down to PBC to play a show in his backyard. It ended up being worth their while though, at least a hundred kids came to his shindig and they were all stoked.
"I remember being starstruck by this touring band from far away, their equipment, their van, it's just one of many factors that instilled in me a desire to tour."
4. The Factory, circa 2008
"There was a time when we were first starting when it was really hard for us to find good shows. It was the golden age of MySpace, and we would spend hours trying to find new places to play, we actually managed to book two full East Coast tours with our band's MySpace page. I really miss MySpace, I wish it hadn't changed.
"Anyways, we managed to get a show at the old Factory in Broward County. We remembered it as the place where Poison the Well would play when we were in high school, so we were expecting it to be a proper venue, but it was more like a greasy dinner theater by then.
"We had walked into something kind of like a variety show where a panel gives their opinion on the various acts; we were up against comedians, ventriloquists, and some other performances I can't remember now. The entire audience was seated and most of them were eating chicken wings, the only thing missing was a couple of slot machines.
"Needless to say it didn't feel like the natural setting for our music, especially because it takes us at least twenty minutes to set up, an awkward length of time for people in a restaurant-theater setting. I don't remember how the show went, probably bad, but I do remember one of the panel members who went by the name "Bitchfire" made a comment that I reminded her of a gay John F. Kennedy. Still not sure what she meant by that."
3. The Snooze, April 7, 2012
"There used to be a venue called the Snooze in northern Palm Beach County. It always managed to book the most interesting out of town bands, and it was a regular haunt for everyone in Surfer Blood. I'd say many of the shows I went to there were memorable, we played there once or twice too.
"It was the first place we played the songs off our second record Pythons. We had spent the better part of six months writing and waiting to hear something, anything from our label about recording. Finally, we got the green light and a date to start recording in Los Angeles with Gil Norton. We realized that we were about to fly across the country to record a bunch of songs we'd never played in front of a live audience, so a week before we left, we arranged to put on a show at the Snooze, our favorite haunt.
"The show went well, and all of our parents and friends came and everyone had a great time! It was an affirmation that felt really good after working on a record for months on end."
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2. Respectable Street Cafe, circa 2012
"We had a show booked at Respectables at the tail end of a very long tour. It had been more than seventy days since we'd left and almost as many shows. We were exhausted and delirious by that point and probably capable of anything. One thing I've always loved about Respectables is their lighting rig. They have lights in every shape size and color, and they all move!
"During one of our noisy parts whoever was doing the lighting at the time started going nuts with all the strobes, I was so moved that I climbed on top of the PA speaker. I spotted a pipe attached to the roof and jumped. The plan was to hang from pipe and swing back and forth like a circus performer, but I overestimated how sturdy that particular fixture was. The pipe wasn't really supported by anything and I fell on my back hard, it didn't really hurt that badly but it took me a while to get up because I was so embarrassed."
1. Moonfest 2009
"This was right after our band started getting noticed, and we signed our record deal with Kanine Records. We got pretty good billing on an outdoor stage on Clematis Street the weekend before Halloween.
"All of us love costumes so much so that when the costume contest that preceded our set was over we noticed a lonely centaur sulking by the side of the stage. Apparently he had missed the contest, his costume too cumbersome to make it to the stage on time. We decided that as a consolation, he should join our band onstage during our set and show off what he had put so much time and energy into.
"It wasn't quite what I expected, after a couple songs it was way too crowded on the little stage. I decided it was the perfect time to try crowd surfing, but the lights were so bright I couldn't make out how many people were watching. I took a leap of faith and landed on some kids who must've been in middle school and were in no way prepared to catch or support me.
"My father, who had come to see his son play at the famous Moonfest was there to break my fall but he pulled his Achilles tendon in the process and almost passed out from the pain. It was all I could do to help him limp to the curb and sit down before I ran back to the stage, before I left he asked, "Is this the kind of shit you pull at every show?"
Surfer Blood performs with the Band in Heaven and Suede Dudes, 9 p.m., tonight at Respectable Street Cafe, 518 Clematis St., West Palm Beach. Tickets are $7. Call 561-832-9999, or visit sub-culture.org/respectable-street.
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